Six Tips to Building a Healthy Parent/Child Relationship
By: Reshma Freeman, LCPC, LPC
Parenting has to be one of the most difficult careers in life. A career due to its endless learning and growing opportunities as a parent or caregiver and a career in which individuals are not provided with any training manual or training classes throughout parenting. As we may all know, Building a healthy parent/child relationship can be different with each child, including children who are born or establish a disability in life. The challenges parents/caregivers will experience changes from moment to moment. It’s like looking both ways before you cross the street then getting hit by an airplane. Dependent on the approaches used to get through those challenges, it can have a long-lasting effect on the child’s mental and physical health. No pressure, right?
Building a healthy bond with your child is an essential foundation of building a healthy parent/child relationship. Bonding involves practicing a variety of skills with each other consistently including listening, validation, non-judgmental attitude, expressing emotions, description and purpose for rules, practicing coping skills with your child, compromise, and quality time. The 1st part of bonding I will elaborate on are listening, validation, non-judgmental attitude and expressing emotions. Listening involves taking the time to truly understand the message and intent each person is verbally and physically communicating. Validation is letting the person know that you understand them. It does not mean you are in agreement or condone. Here are the 6 tips I would recommend for parents or caregivers to practice with their child in order as follows:
Tip 1: Be Present
- Focus on what the individual is truly saying.
- Maintain eye contact with the individual and not multi-tasking.
Tip 2: Accurate Reflection
- Restating what the person said and demonstrating YOUR understanding about it to check accuracy.
E.G. “My understanding about what your saying is ………….”
Tip 3: Reading the person’s behaviors, and empathize to understand what it is like to be that person.
- Guessing what he/she might be thinking or feeling E.G. “you must feel…” “That sounds….”
- Reading body language and witnessing the nonverbals
- If this is perceived as incorrect, the individual will make statements along the lines of “No……..you are wrong. That is not what I am saying.” Try going back to tip 2 or validating their immediate emotional response.
Tip 4: Connecting the current experience the individual is experiencing to his/her past experiences.
For example, “I understand you’re feeling hurt from the breakup in the relationship. The last break up you experienced, you were feeling hurt too and you got through it.”
Tip 5: Normalize the experience the individual is having through empathizing
- Validate based on current circumstances.
- By allowing and sitting with him/her through that emotion and thought patterns without judgement.
- Teach him/to go through difficult emotions and its okay to go through these difficult emotions.
E.G. “no wonder you feel…. Because…. You are allowed to feel that way.”
Level 6: Radical Genuineness
- Be authentic.
- Expressing hope to the individual in a way that’s not trying to “fix” or get rid of the feeling.
- Demonstrate admiration by treating them as an equal without judgment. E.G. “I know you will get through this” “I trust your judgment in this situation”
- No problem solving, no advice, no defensive responses, no offensive responses, and no oppressive responses
- Let him/her know his/her opinion or perspective is okay to have and experience.
- Allow the individual to problem solve on his/her own. E.G. “what are you thinking you’ll do if anything?”
- Calling out the “elephant” in the room and being real.
These six steps to building a healthy parent/child relationship will surely lead to more openness, acceptance, understanding, and connection between you and your child. If you still need more help with your specific situation please give Doors of Hope Counseling a call and schedule with one of our parent therapists today!