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I find that at the beginning of every new year, a common question from parents is how they can improve their relationships with their children. In essence, parents try to set personal parent-child new year’s resolutions. I have found that across time, similar resolutions have been developed for families and I wanted to share some of the most frequent themes with you. These “resolutions” in fact are mindful and thoughtful parenting tools that can be used in every day interactions with children regardless whether it is the new year, middle of the year, or end of year!

1. Be respectful of your child’s boundaries and limitations. Children send us cues of what they may need or want, and often we may or may not choose to listen. For example, your child may peak out at 30 minutes a night of homework and start to become agitated, whiny, or inattentive. Or your child may only tolerate one extracurricular activity per week and tell you he/she dislikes other activities or is “bored” or “tired.” Listen to these cues if they become a pattern over time. Understand that just because “Johnny” down the street can accomplish 5 after-school activities, does not mean your child can. Trust your child’s instincts and respect them–as your child is not in competition with other children. Respecting your child’s limits (while sometimes slighting pushing them!) will create a more loving and affectionate relationship where your child will trust that you understand them.

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2. Have some HUMOR with your parenting. Relax. Parents make mistakes ALL the time. Letting your children know that you make mistakes allows space and room for your children to also make mistakes; and the shame from being “imperfect” is removed from the equation for both parent and child. Laugh when a mess is made in the kitchen or a coffee mug is dropped and breaks! Tell jokes at the dinner table instead of talking about what grade your child received on a chemistry test. Lightening up the mood in the household affords room for your children to talk about subjects that are more serious when the time is actually right.

3. Be AUTHENTIC. I always hear from kids that they want their parents to BE REAL. They tell me they wish their mom or dad told them that she/he was “really really mad” instead of saying “everything is fine honey!” Kids want their parents to model and show real emotion that is congruent with what the situation called for. This is not to say you should share inappropriate information with your children; but a willingness to be honest about feelings opens the door for your children to do the same with you.

Questions to think about this year:

1. What kind of relationship do you want with your children?

  • Fun? Real? Exciting?
  • Or do you want to remain as status quo?

2. What types of interactions drive your day to day functioning with your children?

  • Do you sit and only chat over homework or do you do things together over activities that facilitate attachment and communication?

3. What changes do you need to make to have a deeper connection to your child? What limits this right now in the present moment?

I encourage you this year to make meaningful memories with your children.

Happy New Year,

Dr. Stephanie

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