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How to Improve Your Parent-Child Relationship

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

All relationships require effort. Even the parent-child relationship. If you want to improve your relationship with your child read on for information on what makes up a healthy relationship and how you can use that information to really connect to your kids.

Key elements in a healthy relationship

Commonalities

It goes without saying that relationships begin because of some sort of commonality – either proximity (like in the work place) or interests (as on a basketball team) or blood (as with relatives).

Communication

Both good and bad relationships involve some sort of communication – even if that communication is just the deafening sound of silence.

Vulnerability

For relationships to thrive there needs to be some degree of vulnerability or transparency. Often this is related to our next point, trust.

Trust

Without some presence of trust, relationships cannot sustain themselves. Sometimes trust is hindered by past hurts (real or imagined) and sometimes a hard heart can keep that trust from developing.

Respect

While you can have a relationship with someone you don’t respect, the relationship will be strained for both parties.

How to examine your parent-child relationship

Anyone who has studied psychology or who has been involved in therapy in some capacity or other knows that the relationship between therapist and client is essential for positive change to happen. In fact, one of the first tasks of the therapist is to establish “rapport” with the client. Relationship is so important, that some therapeutic theories are solely based on it.

It is not a far stretch, then, to realize that your relationship with your children is positively (or negatively) impacted by the degree of rapport, or connection, you have with one another. We can use our relationship as a tool to create a solid foundation for future change. This has to be a genuine relationship – one that is forced or manipulative will do damage to the precious foundation you are seeking to establish. So if things feel “off” between you and your child or if your interventions seem ineffective, take a look at your relationship.

  1. Review the elements of a relationship above and cross reference them with what you know of your relationship with your child. How does it measure up?
  2. Check out our free printable on Knowing Your Child that will help you assess how well you know your child.
  3. Then think about the areas that are lacking and brainstorm on ways you can address those that are weak.

Here are some suggestions for improvement:

Relationship Element

Example

CommonalitiesFind a sport, activity, hobby that you both enjoy and carve out time to do it together. If you can’t, start from scratch – decide together what you would like to try and give them all a fair shot – together.
CommunicationPractice empathetic listening. Make sure your child feels heard.
VulnerabilityThis requires balanced judgment and discretion. It is okay to show emotion. It is good to apologize if you need to. It is good for us to be “real” with our kids.
TrustSometimes trust comes after it is extended. It can’t be earned if there are no opportunities to do so.
RespectCheck your tone and non-verbal communication. A lot of negativity can be communicated with just a sigh or a roll of the eyes.

Final thoughts for Christian parents

Over and over again, the Bible tells us that God is intensely interested in a love relationship with His people. If we take God as our perfect model of a perfect parent, we see that He is the initiator, the pursuer and redeemer of our relationship with Him. It starts, continues and grows because of Him.

So let’s examine our hearts for any hardness toward our children. If you have read this and heard in your head, “Yeah, but . . .” or “If he/she would only . . . “, let’s remember the great lengths that God was willing to go to redeem our relationship with Him.

All we have to do is look to the cross.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers parent counseling services to families in Connecticut. She loves to equip and encourage parents of kids of all ages. CfP is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring teens.

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