The strength and depth of the relationship you have with your children can have far reaching benefits. An involved and engaged parent is one of the most important elements for raising happy and well adjusted children. As divorce attorneys we see firsthand how essential a close bond between parent and child is —especially if you ever find yourself in a custody dispute.
The Art of a Divorce When You Have Children
Years of experience helping clients navigate through difficult contested custody cases has provided some insight to improving parent-child relationships.
Some of the advice has come from firsthand experience and some has come from working with child development professionals, but all the advice has one common theme: a positive and dependable parent-child relationship is paramount.
Using these four steps will help to establish a solid foundation for building a better relationship with your child.
Four steps to help establish a new relationship foundation
1. Get involved
Being involved in your child’s daily activities is important. While a trip to Disneyland will certainly win you temporary brownie points —the lasting results come from being engaged with your child during the less grandiose moments.
Daily engagement will allow you to get to know your child and give you the opportunity to model positive behaviors; behaviors that your child will need to be a well adjusted adult. Other ways to get involved include:
- getting to know your child’s teachers and friends,
- volunteering with your child,
- and getting to know the parents of your child’s friends.
2. Spend Time With Them
Seems obvious we know. Spending time with your child is one of the rare situations where quantity can trump quality. The more time you dedicate to spending with your child the easier the other steps will be. We are reminded how important it is for parents to spend time with their children every day —the quantity of time a parent spends engaged with their child is a factor the court system uses to evaluate and award custody.
3. Be interested in what they’re doing
Have you noticed how your child’s face lights up when they have a project or accomplishment to share with you? If you haven’t noticed, keep a close eye out the next time they come running down the hall with an art project or experiment in hand. Children, particularly elementary school aged, are constantly seeking approval and validation from their parents.
Being interested in your child’s life and activities affirms your approval of your kids.
Ask open ended questions. Open ended questions are questions that can’t be answered with a simple one word response. So instead of asking your child “do you have homework” ask them “what did you learn about today?” If you get a brief answer don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions.
4. Be a consistent parent
Easier said than done sometimes. When it comes to consistency, parenting can draw some wisdom from the children’s story “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
Steady and consistent will help you reach your parenting goals more effectively than short bursts of intensity. Being consistent is another factor that the courts and child development experts agree on. Consistency teaches children what they can expect from their parents and how to trust. Establishing consistency and trust is important in reducing the amount of anxiety that children might experience. Consistency is distinguished by reliability, uniformity, and time. Providing a positive and predictable schedule with minimal variations over a period of time is the cornerstone for being consistent in your child’s life.
Parenting is a challenging and rewarding experience. Don’t get derailed by trying to be perfect. As long as you are providing a safe, supportive environment, and are continually working to improve your parent-child relationship, then you are acting in your child’s best interest. With time and effort you will be able to improve the bond you share with your kids.