A mom recently posted a question in a Facebook group. She needed encouragement in her parenting journey after hearing from several parents that she needed to enjoy her time with her children now (all under six-years-old) because when her children were teens, they would hate her and wouldn’t want anything to do with her. She asked how she could maintain a strong relationship with her children into adulthood.
Should we expect the close relationship we have with our little ones to change as they get older? Should that just be one more thing to worry about on the lengthy list of parenting concerns?
While it’s true that our relationships with our children change several times over the course of their growing to adulthood, it doesn’t mean that it has to be something negative. It’s important to note that the blanket statement of children hating us once they become tweens and teens or not wanting to spend any time with us is simply not true for everyone.
So how can we build close bonds with our children that last far into adulthood? And while the ideal would be to start these suggestions when our children are very young, we can never go wrong strengthening those bonds no matter what age our children are.
Here are some ways to build close bonds with your kids:
Give your relationship with your children to the Lord. This is by far the most important suggestion and not a one-time prayer. Surrender your parenting to Jesus, seek His guidance, and endeavor, with His help, to be the kind of parent our Heavenly Father is to us.
Pray with and for your children without ceasing.
Spend time with your kids. Suggestions include listening, learning, singing, dancing, reading, playing games, and going for bike rides. Ask your children for ideas.
Spend one-on-one time with each child. When you’re a mom, the days go by at an unprecedented pace. There is just so much to do and so little time! But it’s critical to spend time with your children one-on-one on a regular basis. Some suggestions? Take a walk, go out for ice cream, plan a “girls day” complete with hair appointments, or celebrate at home with manicures. Again, ask each child for suggestions.
Make church, Bible study, and worship a priority.
Celebrate their uniqueness. Each of our kids are different, and that’s a good thing!
Make family night a tradition. Once you make this important night a tradition (for us it’s Friday nights) be sure to hold to it. Other activities are sure to come up, but if you make family night a priority, it instills the importance of spending time as a family and shows that other “important” activities can be scheduled around time with family.
Keep communication lines open. The standard “fine” when asked how their day is going can be avoided if you get creative in asking questions. If your kids attend a private or public school, wait a few minutes after they get home to ask them about their day. Children need a chance to transition and recharge. Keep in touch with what’s going in in their “world” and with friends and activities.
Bring up topics of interest. I bring a “topic” to the table each day, usually at lunch because it seems we have more time at that meal. I seek their opinions about the topic before giving mine and always listen to their point of view whether I agree with it or not. It can be any age-appropriate topic and has varied from how to be kind to others when they were little, to abortion when they got older, to today’s topic, which was on a Christian heretic and how we need discernment. As a homeschooling mom, I have an advantage of spending time with my kids that we wouldn’t have if they were in a school setting all day with limited time to spend together after school, sports, jobs, etc. If your child is private or public schooled, plan this time around the dinner table.
Express your gratitude. Have a grateful heart and a humble spirit whenever they do something kind or helpful.
Discipline with fairness and with love.
Be a good listener. Care about what matters to them, and always, always, always let them know how much you love them and how thankful you are that God has chosen you to be their mom.
Teach compassion and empathy for others by modeling it yourself.
Be respectful of them.
Find times to chat. Ever since my daughters were little, we’ve had a rule that we’ve never watched videos in the car. This wasn’t because I’m against videos – I actually love a good movie) – but because car-time is talk time, and if they don’t open up at other times, they will open up in the car (as odd as that sounds). On longer trips, we’d put on Christian tunes and sing together, or on family jaunts, we’d listen to Adventures in Odyssey. Other ideas? Provide a stack of books and travel games. (The license plate game, anyone?)
Don’t encourage your kids to grow up too fast. It really is true that when you blink, your kids will be grown. I didn’t believe it back in those early days of my kids not sleeping through the night and the ensuing severe sleep deprivation. All the milestones that our kids will eventually cross don’t need to be rushed. Take the time to enjoy each stage as it comes.
Priorities, priorities! Those we love should be a priority over all other “things” that clamor for our attention on a daily basis. This includes cell phones (which should never be allowed at the dinner table or family night), social media (fine in small doses, but it should never replace time with our families), choosing to work 24/7 with no time for family, and many, many other time vacuums that are in our busy lives. This is not to say that we make our children selfish because they think they are the only thing that matters (we do have to work, do laundry, and make dinner!), but it is to say that things can never take the place of people and we should never make it seem like they are.
Don’t listen to naysayers. Everyone will have a different parenting experience. Life happens and sometimes things beyond our control get in the way of relationships.
Remember there is no guarantee. A dear friend who was always close to her children recently discovered that one of them, as an adult, has joined a cult and has disowned their family. No matter how hard we try, things can still go in a different direction than we ever would have planned. We do the best we can, then leave the rest to God.
Before you go, check out these other posts on this blog: