10 Ways to Connect With Your Child


  1. Have a sense of humor. Joke and laugh. Lighten up! It’s okay to be silly and to play. Shared experiences and inside jokes create strong bonds between parent and child, and looking back on those positive moments can be helpful when the relationship gets rocky.


  1. Listen, really listen. Set aside the screens for a designated period of time each day if possible, so that you can be fully present. Try not to “zone out”, even if you are bored, or you have had a similar conversation before. You may gain a new perspective on an old theme, or discover that your child has had a radical change of heart about an important issue. Asking the right questions can increase your understanding of your child and help your child to feel heard. Sometimes it’s not about the content. Your presence is often the most important ingredient.


  1. Pay attention to what your child is interested in, and get interested– or at least informed about that subject, no matter how trivial or silly it may seem to you. Children are often the ones being taught, and they enjoy teaching adults new things.


  1. Discover your child’s love language and learn to speak it. The Five Love Languages according to Dr. Gary Chapman are: Quality time (spending time), acts of service (doing something for another person), words of affirmation (positive comments/compliments), touch, and giving gifts. The idea is that each individual needs to experience his or her love language in order to feel loved. Dr. Chapman initially used this idea with couples, and he has expanded it to include children as well. You can google the 5 love languages trailer, or watch him being interviewed by Katie Couric or Oprah Winfrey about this online. He has several books that explain these ideas further.


  1. Slow down now and then so that there is time for your child to relax and play with no agenda or time pressure.


  1. Make plans for outings or time at home in groups and one-to-one whenever possible. Putting the plan on a calendar makes it a priority, and you will be more likely to follow through. You may prefer an electronic calendar for yourself as a reminder, however it can be fun and helpful for children to see a visual calendar on the fridge or elsewhere in your home. Taking pictures of these special times and displaying them where everyone can view them can foster goodwill, and will remind everyone of happy memories.


  1. Set measurable, achievable goals with your child. State them in positive, affirming language. Focus on improvement and effort, and remind your child of the gains that he or she has made.


  1. Help your child solve problems. Explore options together, and encourage your child to make the final decision whenever possible.


  1. Make mealtimes special. Weekend meals or the evening meal can be good times to check in and talk. Preparing food together, planning the grocery list with some input from your child, or allowing each person to have an opportunity to choose a favorite meal can increase participation and food consumption for picky eaters or children who do not enjoy mealtimes.


  1. Tell stories about their childhood and your childhood. Talk about your heritage. Knowing where he or she comes from can help your child to feel special and included. If your child is a foster child or adopted, or you have a blended family, you may wish honor the family histories by merging the stories and traditions of the households and backgrounds that are represented in your home. Ensure that what you share is age-appropriate and respectful to everyone involved. You can help your child to craft a story that can be shared proudly with others. This story will likely grow and change with your child.


Tara-Anne Powell, M.A., Registered Psychologist