One of the most important elements of having a great relationship with your child is enjoying being with each other. After all, how can you be close if all your time together is taken up with discipline, chores and homework? Many parents tell me that there is no time for fun. My response to them is that fun is as important as homework or any other aspect of parenting. Here is the challenge. Finding something that both you and your child enjoy doing.
This is not as difficult as it sounds to many parents. It all starts with sharing. That’s what it’s all about! So that’s how it should start. The easiest way to start the process is just ask. Ask your child what they like to do. Conversely, you can share with them what you like to do. Sometimes right off the bat you’ll come up with something in common. For instance movies, sports, art, board games, riding bicycles etc. Sometimes it’s not so easy at first. However, stick with it. The challenge will be worth it.
Let me give you an example. About the time my son was starting high school, he really got into rap. When I say into, “I really mean into”, like only a teenager can. I asked him what the attraction was. Believe me, I really didn’t get it.
He went into an hour-long discussion about rap. How there is good rap and bad rap. He explained that good rap was poetry. Mostly about the human condition. Bad rap was mostly wanna be rappers wanting to be like the good rappers. However, they all sounded the same, had nothing new to say and were extremely repetitive. He then gave me examples of what he thought was good rap and what they were trying to say. We even listened to examples. I have to admit that after all was said and done, Rap was still not my favorite kind of music. Although, I really did have a new appreciation for the poetry of it.
The most important thing was that I understood my son better and just as importantly, he knew that I cared enough to want that. Sometimes, doing something together, is just having a good conversation.
Don’t worry if at first when you approach your child with this strange idea of spending time together and your kid looks at you like you’ve had a stroke and they ask you if you’re feeling OK.
They just have to believe that you really mean it. Deep down inside almost all kids want to be close to their parents. If not, they once did, and in that situation it may take some more time and effort for them to believe that you really mean it.
If you look at the people in your life that you most want to spend time with, you will most likely come up with a list of people that you have fun spending time with and they will also be people that you trust.
I am not suggesting that you can or should be your kids “BFF”(Best Friends Forever). They don’t need another bud and they don’t need to want to spend all of their time with you. Depending on their age they will have different needs that when met helps them grow socially. Remember they can’t be your BFF either. However, there is a closeness that can be achieved between a parent and a child that can’t be duplicated. Even between BFF’s. Conversely, there will always be something missing if they don’t enjoy the relationship with their parents and are not close to them.
Consider the impact on on your child if you don’t make these efforts.
Having discussed this issue with thousands of kids, I can tell you that it is almost a guarantee that they will believe that that you simply don’t want this closeness with them and the unintended side effect is that it will make it very difficult to be close with them when they are older and need you as a loving trusted advisor.
At the end of the day what they need is a very close trusting relationship with their parents which is always facilitated by being able to enjoy being with them, at least most of the time!
Remember, this is for you too. There is a happiness that is unrivaled when you are enjoying being with your child.
About Dr. Marc Greenfield
Dr. Greenfield is a psychologist who has dedicated his life to helping children using a multitude of formats. He began his career working with autistic children in a specialized treatment program for vulnerable children in Hialeah Florida. He coordinated a psychiatric program for seriously emotionally disturbed children at Variety Children’s Hospital in Miami Florida for over 10 years. He was an advisor to television networks on children’s and parenting programming (primarily WTVJ and WL RN in Miami Florida). He is currently the founder and director of Children’s Survival Network a nonprofit organization whose mission is to comprehensively meet the needs of abused and neglected children. Dr. Greenfield also maintains a private practice in South Miami, Florida.