The strength and depth of the relationship you have with your children have far-reaching benefits. Having an involved, engaged parent is one of the most important elements for happy, well-adjusted children.
Divorce and custody disputes often jeopardize parent-child relationships. We see it first hand all too often. But there are steps you can take to protect this vital bond.
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Years of experience helping clients navigate difficult, contested custody cases have provided some insight into improving and preserving parent-child relationships.
Some of this advice comes from firsthand experience, some come from working with child development professionals. It all has one common theme, however: a positive and dependable parent-child relationship is paramount.
Using these four steps helps establish a solid foundation for building a better relationship with your child.
1. Get involved
Being involved in your child’s daily activities is important. A trip to Disneyland will certainly win temporary brownie points. However, the lasting results come from being engaged with your child during the less grandiose moments.
Daily engagement allows you to get to know your child. Being regularly involved gives you the opportunity to model positive behaviors. This is important to help your child develop into a well-adjusted adult.
Other ways to get involved include:
- Getting to know your child’s teachers and friends.
- Volunteering with your child.
- Getting to know the parents of your child’s friends.
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2. Spend Time With Them
This seems obvious, we know. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy or unimportant.
Spending time with your child is one of the rare situations where quantity trumps quality. The more time you dedicate to spending with your child, the easier the other steps will be.
How much time you spend with your child also impacts much more than your relationship. It may even impact how involved you stay in their life after the divorce.
When it comes to awarding custody, one major factor the courts consider is the quantity of time a parent spends with their child. In general, they don’t want to drastically change a child’s routine if possible. So if you spend a significant amount of time with your kids now, the court will likely keep that in mind when hashing out the parenting plan.
If you spend time with your kids every day, that will likely continue. And that gives you even more opportunities to improve and strengthen your relationship.
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3. Be interested in what they’re doing
Have you noticed your child’s face lights up when they share a project or accomplishment 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 those of elementary school age, constantly seek 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 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.
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4. Be a consistent parent
Again, this one seems pretty obvious on the surface. But as is so often the case, it’s 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.”
Being steady and consistent helps you reach parenting goals more effectively than short bursts of intensity.
Consistency is another factor that the courts and child development experts agree on. It 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 children 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.
Being there, and their knowing you will be there, is huge for a child’s well being.
Parenting is as challenging an experience as it is rewarding. Don’t get derailed by trying to be perfect. As long as you provide a safe, supportive, loving environment, and continually work 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.
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