by Nicole Schwarz, MA, LMFT
How to Repair a Relationship with Your Child-“I know it's bad, but I don't even want to spend time with Jordan. He's so demanding and high-energy. I usually try to avoid him, getting busy with something in the kitchen or spending time with the other kids.”
“Life has just been so hard lately. Working full-time, trying to get out from under this mountain of debt, my parents are getting older and they need more help. By the end of the day, I've got nothing left for my kids.”
“I don't know what happened. All we do is argue. Yelling has become my way of talking with my kids.”
Even the most well-meaning parent has difficult days. Days when we say things to our kids that we immediately regret. When we slip into old habits and do things that we were trying to change or improve.
A few bad days are normal. The relationship with our kids is like any other relationship, there are ups and downs, good times and bad. But, if there are more downs than up or more bad days than good, it might be time to step back and look at your relationship.
Sometimes it's easy to see that your relationship is in disrepair: your children avoid you, talk-back, are disrespectful or you feel annoyed, frustrated or helpless. Other times, it's just a simple repair, re-building on an already strong foundation.
If you feel that your relationship needs a tune-up. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Acknowledge the rift: In a calm moment, let your child know what you've observed and how you feel about it. Your child's response may vary. They may agree, disagree, be indifferent, angry or annoyed. Whatever their response, keep the focus on your own thoughts and feelings, rather than forcing them to agree or feel the same. “I realize things have been a little tense between us. That makes me sad, I want to work on easing that tension.”
2. Make Amends: Sometimes, it is our fault that there is disrepair. We may be too busy, too impatient, too controlling, etc. Apologize, if necessary. Work on making it right with your child. This doesn't mean buying them something expensive or being overly permissive. It may mean giving a hug, writing a note or finding a way to make your child feel special. However, don't be a martyr. Sometimes the distance is due to your child's behavior. In that case, acknowledge your part, but do not take responsibility for their actions or choices.
3. Engage in an activity together: Rather than allowing the distance to continue, work to find something to do that gives you a chance to be together. It may be a board game, shooting baskets, taking a walk or even playing a video game. Sometimes, it's best to just be together in silence, rather than forcing your child to talk. If your child is resistant, keep the door open and continue to look for opportunities to spend time together.
4. Do something different: Instead of falling back into old habits, replace them with something helpful or positive. That may mean taking a deep breath before responding to your child, creating a new parenting mantra, focusing on listening rather than giving advice or eliminating something from your busy schedule. It may take time for this new behavior to become a habit. In the meantime, give yourself permission to be a “work in progress.”
5. Be patient: One of the most challenging aspects of repairing a relationship is not being in control of the other person. When working on a repair, don't force it. Sometimes it may seem that your efforts are not making a difference. Your child may be skeptical of your intentions or wondering if you will be consistent. Above all, your child wants to know that you love and value them and the relationship, it's not for nothing, but it may take time to see the results.
6. Get professional help: If the relationship is damaged due to abuse, neglect, addiction or mental health concerns, or if it's just not getting any better, it's best to seek the help of a mental health professional. Therapists can help you and your child navigate the choppy waters of building trust, learning new skills and engaging in healthy patterns. It's not a sign of weakness to seek mental health support, it's a sign that you realize the importance of your relationship and value it enough to get help.
It's important to keep in mind that you may not be 100% responsible
You don't need to do this repair work alone! Find suggestions, support and encouragement through Parent Coaching. Contact me today for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. I'm here to help you feel less stressed and more confident in your parenting.