I’ve written a couple of articles about what your child doesn’t need from you so here’s one about what your child does need from you.
1. Your Interest. We’re all busy most of the time, if not at work then working at the other things we have to do. If you feel like you can just never catch up, never finish with everything you have to do you’re not alone. So when your child starts a conversation with you, wants to tell you something that you’re not particularly interested in hearing, remember a child’s parents are the people who tell her/him whether or not she’s lovable and that’s her starting point for how she feels about herself as she grows into adulthood and out into the world.
2. Your Time. Set aside some time every day, even if it’s only fifteen minutes, to sit with your child and listen or just sit if they don’t want to talk. Meal time is a good time since everyone has to eat. Ask questions about something you know your child is interested in, not the questions you have to ask like whether or not homework is finished but questions that are neutral or positive. At least once a week offer to do something with your child like watch a movie, take a walk, go get an ice cream, help them with something. If your child is an adolescent and the thought of an extended period of time with you makes them roll their eyes heavenward, a movie is always a good offer because all children like movies. Of course, you might have to watch a movie you’re not particularly interested in but that’s not the point. The point is to let your child know you do have time for him and you like spending time with him.
3. Your emotional support. All children, no matter what stage of development they’re in, need to know they have their parent’s emotional support. It goes along with your child knowing you love him/her. If
your child complains about someone or something, ask if there’s something you can do to help. If there is and it’s reasonable take the time to do it. If it’s
a complaint about the kids at school or a teacher ask your child what he/she
thinks can or should be done about it, if anything. Sometimes kids just want to talk and they need to trust that confiding in their parent isn’t going to
trigger the parent into confronting one of their friends or a teacher.
4. Listen. Not while you’re doing two other things but when your child has something to say. Stop and listen. Even if it takes a couple of minutes and you really do need to get something else done. You can let your child know when you will be available to hear more and assure your child you do want to hear more. Don’t be dismissive, don’t make your child feel like what they have to say doesn’t count. Don’t be critical. Just listen. Sometimes there isn’t a solution or a child doesn’t want your advice, they just want you to listen.
5. Love. Not love like in how many things can you give your child or how many places you can take your child but the kind of love that’s shown by doing the things above and by smiling at your child, hugging your child, telling your child you love her/him. Even if it isn’t well received, and in the case of adolescents it might not be, do it anyway. And don’t get defensive or angry if the child shrugs you off. Even if they don’t admit it, they like it and they need it.
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