One of my goals is to remain close to my kids well into their adulthood. Here’s how to build a close relationship with your child, starting now.
Many years from now, we’ll stop doing everything for our kids. They’ll learn to follow their own paths and decisions, only turning to us for advice or support. They’ll be adults, and the majority of our parenting duties would have finished.
In those years, what will your relationship become? And is there a way to create a close relationship with your child now that extends into his adulthood?
I’d like to think so.
We can’t choose our kids, their temperaments, or the circumstances that shape their lives. But we can act now to build a close relationship with our future-adult children.
I’ve said that the number one job of a parent is to raise future adults. Wouldn’t it be lovely if those future adults would be people we could get along with?
How to build a close relationship with your child
Other moms seem to share the same sentiment. I asked them, “How do you create a life-long, close relationship with your kids?”
Here’s what your fellow moms said:
Give your kids space
“I’m lucky to have two terrific parents with whom I’ve (almost) always had a great, easy relationship.
“One thing they did in my early 20s is they never put pressure on my time. I was in that stage right after college when I was figuring out who I was and what my priorities were. I didn’t have the added albatross of parental guilt hanging around my neck.
“But you know what? Not feeling pressured to be with my parents made me more excited to see them, and more enriched and comforted when we did spend time together.
“I’m still close to both my parents and am grateful to them for understanding where I was in my own development. And that a little space gave me the support I needed.
“My kids are still young, but I’ve learned from my parents’ example to give them space even at this early stage. As my kids spend time at school and away from me, I give them space to form their own friendships. I don’t swoop in to intervene and micromanage.
I want to them to forge their own paths while I’m still close enough to help them chart the course if they need it.”
“My girls are still young (ages three and four), so I’m no expert. But the best thing I can do to foster a life-long close relationship with my daughters is to listen to them.
“That’s not always easy right now because they have a lot to say, but I try to stay present for the stories, songs and questions.
“While I hope they will always want to share everything with me, I know that’s unrealistic. Instead I want them to know that no matter what they say, I’ll always listen. And even if they tell me something I don’t want to hear, I’ll always love them and be there for them.”
Live in the moment
“Living in the moment with your kids is key to building a life-long, close relationship. My best memories from my childhood are the times my parents spent with me.
“I remember one afternoon playing with the plowed dirt in my grandfather’s fields. We were listening to stories my dad told while cooking dinner, and going to the grocery store with my mom.
“I hope my kids will remember the afternoons we play with play dough and Lego, the road trip we took last summer, and that we can continue to be together as they grow older.”
-MaryAnne, Mama Smiles
“I have a healthy and loving relationship with my parents, but I wish I could be more open with them. Certain topics were off the table because they were conservative and private. I was afraid to tell them what my friends were up to or that I made a mistake in my personal life.
“When my oldest was born seven years ago, I decided to never stop talking to him (and now his two little brothers). We already have serious conversations. I answer all his questions and give feedback and opinions without judgment.
“I want them to trust me. It must be a security they can always count on.”
-Betty, My Friend Betty Says
Be their parents, not their friends
“I trusted that my parents were always on my side. They weren’t my friends—they were my parents (still are!).
“Of course they told me when I was wrong, but I could always count on them to have my back. They explained exactly why I couldn’t do something I wanted to do, and offered many choices. I use that in my parenting now!”
-Tamara, Tamara (Like) Camera
Watch your reactions
The other day my four-year-old casually mentioned, “Did you know I have a girlfriend?”
Surprised, I caught myself and didn’t tease or make a fuss out of it (“Oooooh… you have a giiiirrrllfriend!”). Instead, I reacted in the same way I would hear another one of his pleasant tidbits about school. “I didn’t know. Tell me about her—what’s her name?”
I don’t want my four-year-old to wonder why his mom is teasing him and decide he should keep his mouth shut next time.
I’d also like my kids to feel comfortable talking to me without wondering if I’ll worry. If my first reaction is to worry, they won’t tell me anything because they wouldn’t want me to freak out.
Accept your kids for who they are
We don’t make our kids—they are their own persons. The quicker we recognize and cherish this, the better we’ll be at accepting who they are. Embrace your daughter’s introversion, however difficult it may be for your extroverted self.
Don’t pressure your son to excel in sports when he’d rather play music. Get to know your kids, and celebrate who they are.
Sometimes we have these dreams for our kids and imagine they’re successful, or making a distinguished mark in the world, or that we’ll be the best of friends. These expectations can prevent them from shining in ways they feel most comfortable.
Allow them to make their own decisions
You choose their clothes and select their schools. You determine bedtimes and even pick their play dates. But as your kids grow, allow them to make their own decisions—including their own mistakes.
We can’t—and shouldn’t—always save our kids. Otherwise, we’d prevent them from building their own resilience or learning right and wrong. They wouldn’t develop the ability to make better decisions next time.
5-Day Parenting Challenge
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Last night, my four-year-old and I were reading together, snuggled close on the couch. He’s still young enough to draw him close and plant a kiss on the top of his head. We sang silly songs and giggled over even sillier jokes.
It won’t always be that way.
He’ll grow too tall for me to plant a kiss on the top of his head. Too mature to giggle over preschool friends, and too independent to read together. He’ll have grown into a young adult.
Still, I know that love will find ways to express itself, regardless of age or time, thanks to the close relationship I’m building with him now.
Get more parenting tips:
- How to Give Your Child a Sense of Belonging
- The Biggest Reason Parents Should Have a Life Besides Kids
- How to Stay Positive During Your Pregnancy