Who Is This Kid? – 5 Ways for Parents to Reconnect
Whether you’re a business executive whose son plays video games all day or you have a daughter that has adopted a subculture you didn’t even know existed or you’re a proud braai master whose children have all gone vegan, there are ways to find common ground and enjoy being a family again. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
- Unplug. It can be as difficult for parents as it is for children but when we attempt to multi-task, we make spending time with our families just another task. Everyone needs to unplug. Start with the dinner table, where you eat together as often as possible; but at the very least one night a week. Leave the devices and screens in another room of the house.
- There’s a time and a place for screens, however. Start a movie night. Hollywood makes movies specifically for families to enjoy together and Netflix delivers them straight to our lounges. Take advantage of them. This is an especially good way for families that are having trouble communicating with each other. Whether you like the movie or hate it, it’s something to talk about afterwards. Dedicate one night a month to this – and give everyone a task to make it happen. Tasks can include making popcorn, fetching blankets, feeding the dog, and turning all the lights in the house out.
- Speaking of tasks; ask your child for help often. Everyone likes to feel needed, so ask your child for help with something you genuinely need help with – not something that’s already a chore. It may be something as simple as planning the week’s meals or picking out a gift for a parent or grandparent. Keep it real – every child has a strength to share, so figure out what it is and give them every opportunity to shine in their own special way.
- Plan a trip together. Set a long-range date and choose a location that provides something you can both enjoy. Then work together to plan out the trip, including where to stop along the way, places to eat you’ve never eaten before, sites neither of you have ever seen, and friends or family you haven’t seen in a while. The trip doesn’t need to be expensive; it just needs to be on neutral territory. Sharing new experiences brings people closer together and creates memories you’ll all treasure for a lifetime.
- Don’t force it. Parent your child from a place of strength, not from neediness. Let the strings loose a little but continue to model the kind of coping you know they should emulate. If your child feels unconditional love and positive regard from you, they will come to you when they truly need advice, guidance, a patient ear, or a shoulder to cry on.
Your child’s values and goals will change over time just as their taste in music, fashion, and entertainment change. Yours did, right? They are finding their place in this world and they will test out many personas as they go along. Take the time to get to know your child and enjoy every version of themselves, however fleeting, they present to you.
Brenda Leemans has been counselling families in her private practice since 2010. She has a passion for working with children and helping them develop the emotional skills they need to navigate their lives. She holds an Honours degree in Psychology from UNISA and is registered with the HPCSA.