love and mother podcast

How to Better Understand Your Child – Podcast Episode 38

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Building a Close Relationship with Your Child

One of my best friends when I was a teenager had such a close relationship with her mom and it was something I was not used to. And something I immedietely knew I would want with my kids when I had them. 

She would bring her coffee at work, my friend would call her mom during the day. It all seemed so foreign to me. 

It’s not that my mom and I have a bad relationship we just don’t have a close relationship. It’s gotten better through the years as I have a better understanding of her, and her as me ( we are very different people) but as a teen we were not close.

My mom was a teen mom so she had to grow up fast. I have a brother with special needs and that took everything out of her. I was her 4th kid and relatively easy, we bonded over horses and swimming but that was about it. She always instilled a hard work ethic and a “where there’s a will there’s a way” attitude and for those things I am forever grateful but we never had a lovey dovey relationship. Our relationship had other strengths like we could fix things in the house together because we both “had a will and made a way” and she taught me to advocate for vulnerable kids in the way she modeled parenting my brother but it was always like there was something missing. 

I knew when I became a mom I wanted to be the mom that brought her teenage daughter coffee at work and that she would call me with her problems. I guess in my mom making me so independent I crave the need to be needed.

This is not a sad story in any way. I am thankful for the way my mom raised me and the woman I am today because of it. But I just know I wanted to be more loving and affectionate with my kids. Which overall is a huge generational shift for millennial moms. 

So ever since I became a mom I have studied this, I have observed other teens/young adults relationships with their moms. I tried to find out what is different. And now that I am 9 years in to this motherhood gig I get it.

I love being alone and getting work done, I don’t love to play on the floor with my kids, I want my kids to be independent so I am probably pushing them to that more than I thought I would. Heck right now I am sitting downstairs alone, typing this up, while my husband is on the ground playing dolls with our three daughters.  I can hear them laughing and giggling and soaking up his undivided attention He is totally the better parent. 

I hope the ways I parent them will turn them into amazing adults one day like I think my mom did for me. But I’m not letting go of that desire to forever be close, even through the hormonal teenage years. I want to be needed by them (even though being needed by them all the time exhausts me.)

Understand Your Children

Your children each have their own individual, unique personalities, likes, dislikes, passions, and interests. Really invest in getting to know what these things are. Heck I have a journal where I write things down as I learn about my kids. God has really helped in gifting me two very different biological daughters. Lilia loves dolls still at 9 years old, loves to be close, takes an interest in my interests, loves fashion, is an old soul (like me) and holds her emotions in for days at a time until they explode and she can’t quite explain whats wrong. 

Marissa is sport obsessed, refuses to wear a dress, never wants to cut let alone comb her hair, gets along better with boys than girls and would love nothing more than for me to play catch with her. 

I try to be really intentional with what makes them different and what interests them and I know it sounds silly but write it down so I don’t forget the way they reacted to something, or a way I know they felt really loved. 

Then we have my daughter Rosie who I need to understand on a whole different level because we don’t share the same genetics. And that’s where learning about trauma and how her brain works differently is so vitally important. 

Sometimes I feel like I make it a science project but I just ensure I have done everything I can to foster a loving, close relationship with my kids right into adulthood.  I know it still might not turn out the way I want it but I won’t ever say it’s because lack of trying. 

What is the Meaning Behind the Behavior?

When we don’t understand the behavior and just try to parent the behavior it can easily grow into holes in our relationships with our kids. 

Stop and listen. What does the behavior mean? I have been getting a lot of practice with this lately as we have moved countries and the kids are experiencing all new things, missing family, friends, consistency, normal foods, etc. 

One of my kids is way more moody than normal, one is way quicker to have outbursts of emotion and one is struggling with listening and following direction more than usual. 

We have just uprooted their lives and now more than ever is a huge moment of growth in our relationship. I pray it’s a growth together and not apart. But it takes me being intentional. And I am praying for the strength to do it right. 

One on One Time is So Important

Especially in a big family. It is so easy for our kids personalities and behaviours to get lumped together and for us not to see them as the individuals that they are. 

Every week and even in small moments off the day try to have one on one time with each of your children. 

I am not saying this is easy but I am saying it is worth it. 

For us it used to look like weekly ice cream dates or trips to the park but currently we live much more as a family unit and I am not driving, so I alternate days taking one kid to the beach, or swimming in the pool with just one of them. 

Greg and I also trade off one on one time with them, so they have special time with mom and special time with dad and it also gives us each of us a break so we can be more intentional with them when we are together. 

 

Listen

My husband always uses the phrase God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. 

Ask you kids questions with genuine interest and take time to listen, even if they add a million umms and their stories start to ramble.  We all want to be seen and heard and known. Taking time to listen goes a long way. My favourite time to do this is right before bed because I feel like my girls open up more then. Also when we are on our “dates” and there is no distraction from the other kids.

Never be too busy looking at our phone to stop what you are doing and listen to them.

Praise their Creations

My girls are forever making me art and little drawings. I make a big deal out of it every time. If you don’t share those little moments they won;t share the big things in their lives as they get older. Everything they make has value even when my minimalist self secretly disposes of it by the end of the week once they have forgot about it. I take a picture and if it’s really special to them I make sure to file it away. 

Play with Them

This is so hard for me. I didn’t have much of my own childhood so playing seems like such a waste of time to me but I know how important is for them. So to make it work, I do crafts with them and swim with them and read with them as much as I can. Three things I enjoy to do and we enjoy doing them together. 

Playing dolls or horses is not fun to me I can think of a million more productive things to be doing. So I play a few minutes, remind them they have each other to play with and try to encourage their imaginations with an idea/ “Why don’t you pretend the barbie and the horse got lost and had to find each other again.” 

I then make sure to spend more time with them in the craft, homeschool and swimming departments. I always have a lot of mom guilt around this one but I try to focus on the other things I do well with them. Like baking and with Lilia in particular she loves organizing like I do so it’s something we do together often! 

I also from time to time will get down on my hands and knees and play “horse” its as close as I get but I’m making the effort and they love it and laugh and laugh. 

 

Be Honest with Them

In an age appropriate way be honest with them about all the hard questions they ask. We have had lots of practice with this as a foster family. They are exposed to lots of things other kids their age aren’t. I don’t think we can ever fully grasp how much they understand but they know if you are lying or keeping something from them, so honesty (age appropriate) is always the best policy with the hard questions. 

Read the Bible and Pray with Them

Kids absorb through imitation. Make your actions count. My kids pick up my mood and I see my negative reactions come out in them easily. Be intentional thay all your good qualities show up in them too. 

When I hear my kids pray I know I am doing something right despite all the ways I screw up. When I see their hearts to serve and help, I know I am pointing them in the right direction. 

Work on You

I’m quick to anger and quick to yell. I hate it about myself and it has been a motherhood long journey to get better at this. I’m not perfect but I have improved a lot and I am intentional about implementing actions to improve. I am also quick to ask for forgiveness. It’s ok for your kids to see you have negative reactions from time to time. We are humans we are not perfect but how we handle those situations and turn them into teachable moments is what really matters. 

Behave in a way you want your kids to emulate because that is what happens eventually. 

Just like I turned into a different version of my mother my girls will turn into a different version of me. 

When you are intentional in your parenting and you invite God into each moment of it, I really do think you will have success as a parent even though you will mess up many times. 

Everyday I am just so grateful for my kids, even in their mess, even in their complaining, even in their poor behaviours. I owe it to them to be the best version of me so they can turn into the best version of themselves.