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Building Better Relationships With Your Children

What types of challenges are there to building better relationships with your children?

Becoming a parent does not come with an instruction manual for all the things you will face. It is one of the most important and difficult things you can do as well as one of the most rewarding. To raise a child is a huge responsibility which is usually taken for granted. Building good relationships with our children helps them grow into healthy, happy, well-adjusted, successful, honest, caring, responsible adults who will be respectful of others\' feelings and property, be able to get along with others and be able to cope with difficulties.

However, there are several challenges to building solid relationships with your children, especially as they become older and more independent. Everyone disagrees with each other sometimes and occasional tension or arguments are part of family life, but ongoing arguments and tension can be stressful and overwhelming. Some common causes of difficulties include:

  • Living together - Children can be very persistent and demanding, and parents can feel worn down and uncertain at times.
  • Poor communication - This might include not listening to each other, parental nagging, and parents over-reacting to what children tell them. Parents and their children may misunderstand each other, jump to the wrong conclusions, or there maybe a lack of communication
  • Differences in values and opinions - It is normal for children to challenge their parents, especially as they get older. Conflict can arise about any number of issues, such as freedom and independence, privacy, time limits, friends, activities, and having their own point of view. Often parents and children become highly emotional about these types of issues, and engage in shouting matches and criticisms.
  • Anger - People experience anger when they feel that something unjust has been done to them. Anger is a normal and natural emotion, but parents may have difficulties managing their child's anger, and they may struggle to manage their own feelings of anger too.
  • Criticism - This usually leads to conflict, and children may become defensive and resistant to change when they feel they are being criticised. Parents may compare their child to how they were at a similar age, but children may feel resentful and as though they are not good enough in response to this.
  • Changes in the family caused by separation, divorce, a new baby, moving house or even moving from a new country.
  • Expectations and pressure - You might have certain expectations about your child's friends, career/job, exams and school, chores, or their hairstyle, clothes they wear, or music that they listen to.
  • Cultural expectations - If you have grown up in another country or another generation, you may have very different values and expectations to people in this country.

Helping yourself

There are several strategies that you can use that will help you build, maintain and strengthen good relationships with your children. This includes the following:

  • Build good communication skills (link to communication handout?)
  • Manage conflict - Think about family rules and adjust them where appropriate, especially as your child becomes older and more responsible. Let your child sometimes ?win? the smaller issues, while standing firm on more important issues. Tell your child you are hurt when they say or do something hurtful, and admit when you are wrong without excuses or blame.
  • Manage anger - It is important to teach children that it is ok to be angry, and it is the way that you deal with those strong feelings that is the most important thing. Show them how to manage feelings without hurting others or destroying things, and model the types of behaviour that you want to see in your children.
  • Praise - Rather than praising your child's personality or character, which may make them feel anxious or uncomfortable, focus on their efforts and what they have achieved, and how you feel about it. It helps to pay more attention to your child's talents and abilities, rather than criticise them.
  • Spend time together - Your child may wish to spend more time with their friends than their family, especially as they get older, however there are several ways that you can boost time spent together. This includes eating meals together, driving your child places, spending time together at bedtime, and having a coffee or softdrink together at a caf?.
  • Respect their privacy - All young people need some space and secrets from their parents. Don't go through their diaries or draws when they are not around, don't push for information unless you need to make sure they are safe, and for older children, ask permission before entering their room.
  • Take an interest in what they do, and share your interests - Watch them play sport, listen to some of their music, watch their favourite TV shows, take them to a movie you will both like, get to know their friends, and share something about your work, or your experiences as a child or teenager.
  • Show you love them - Tell your children that you love them, hug them, sometimes buy them their favourite food, buy something they will like on a shopping trip, or pick them up from activities.
  • Make special memories - Do special things together, such as take your child's friends on holidays together, create family traditions, hang up photos of your children, and make sure your child is invited to be part of activities involving the wider family.
  • Have faith in them - Let them know they are special, ask their advice about something they know a lot about, keep a book of their achievements, and if they make a mistake believe that they will do better next time.
  • Be there for them - Foster a sense that no matter what, you will be there for them, even if you do not always see eye to eye.
  • Look after yourself - By caring for yourself, you are setting a good example for your child to take care of themselves.

Getting professional help

If you, or someone that you know, is in need of additional assistance, the best person to speak to is your GP. They may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The following services may also be of assistance: