Thanks to suspended schooling, curfews, shelter-in-place regulations, and other societal and community events, parents around the world are spending more time at home with their kids.
If you’re like many parents, you haven’t spent this much time with your kids since they were babies.
Here are three ways to develop and renew strong bonds with your kids while your family is forced together due to current events.
How to Reconnect With Your Kids
Expect Slow Progress with Some Kids
All people, including your offspring, are individuals with their own emotional and social needs. Some children easily develop affectionate relationships with their parents and caregivers, even when a parent is often absent due to work or other circumstances.
Other children and teenagers protect themselves emotionally by being more standoffish as they navigate their loneliness, resentment, and other feelings.
Reserved kids often find it difficult to reach out to or develop warm interactions with their parents. If a parent normally traveled a great deal for business or worked long hours before COVID-19 entered the picture, their child may have unspoken resentments, fears, or confusion about the reciprocal relationship between parent and child.
When attempting to reach cold and seemingly apathetic kids, it’s important not to force displays or spoken sentiments of affection. Talk with your child rather than with your child. Even if a child’s words become passionate or harsh, don’t take their immature anger personally.
Offer your child the same respect you’d extend to an out-of-line friend to show your child the conversational tone you expect to receive from your child. When you model the behavior you want to see, the lessons sink in over the long haul.
If you try to force the issue and demand to be treated a certain way, you only build more resentment in your child. When you’ve been an absent parent, it’s better to start from scratch and build a base of mutual support, unconditional love, and respect for one another.
Devote Your Full Attention or Give Up
Talk to parents of grown children, and they’ll all pretty much tell you the same thing: kids grow up far too fast. One day, they’re toddlers, standing on the coffee table throwing cereal at the dog. The next day, it seems, they’re heading off as young adults to distant colleges and jobs.
Most parents wish they’d spent more time focused on their growing children when they had the chance. They feel guilty for having worried more about unimportant details than those precious moments they could have enjoyed with their kids.
Instead of focusing on negative issues or being swept up in mundane details, take advantage of the time you’re throwing away. Invest some time every day in play, discussion, and warm interactions with your kids.
Don’t allow distractions and other pursuits to harm the bond with your kids. For example, don’t stay on your phone scrolling through social media while your kids are telling you about their problems, concerns, and victories.
Whenever possible, devote your full attention to each child for a small segment of time every day. Create a schedule so that each kid receives valuable daily one-on-one time with you. Incorporate the blocks of time into your daily routine. For example, one-on-one time can be offered while prepping meals, driving to get a curbside pickup, or enjoying video games together.
If you fail to devote a special time for your kids and constantly say, “I don’t have time for you right now”, expect to hear the same phrase repeated in the future. Perhaps you’ll hear the phrase from a busy teen or an estranged adult child when you’re lonely for their attention.
Let your kids know they’re important to you by focusing on their world for a bit of time each day. Kids learn from your example how to be attentive and care for the people they love.
Retain Boundaries Despite Guilt
A breakdown of family order is one of the risks of being isolated together with your family. Whether you let things slide to avoid conflict, or you’ve learned that confrontation only escalates family tension, you could end up with frayed family relationships and frequent household chaos.
Step back and assess the causes of family chaos, which are as varied as the families who fall down the disorder hole. Some reasons family order fails include:
- Unhealthy methods of communication
- Unfair distribution of household labor
- Poor planning and scheduling
- Burnout from constant child-rearing
- Financial difficulty
- Medical and/or mental health problems
- Absent parent due to work, illness, or incarceration
Address each disorder-causing issue, one by one, to restore order to your home. For example, if your family has poor communication skills, start holding family meetings each day to re-establish dialog and help your family function as a team. Decrease meetings to once a week after communication improves.
During meetings, encourage adults and children to contribute their complaints and ideas for solutions. When kids feel that their goals, inner resentments, pet peeves, and bright ideas are heard and acknowledged without judgment or gatekeeping, communication improves in the entire family.
By engaging as a family in civil, constructive discussions, you work as a team to address other causes of the family disorder. You can develop personalized family chore charts, message boards, and housework “games” (like a bed-making or clothes-folding competition) to tidy a disordered home.
Reach out to others for assistance if your family life becomes overwhelming. Public and private agencies offer help with food, caregiving, professional treatments, and other assistance during times of medical, mental health, or financial troubles.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for substance abuse disorders or other abuse issues happening in your family.
Reach out to loved ones, too. Even if you can only chat with friends and family by phone, stay connected to the outside world as much as you can. Moral support is important for people of all ages when times are stressful and uncertain.
Remember that no family is perfect, but nearly every unhealthy family can start over to create a healthier home life. Take advantage of opportunities to develop strong bonds with your family members now, so you can reverse any negative family trends in the future.