Parenting is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, jobs that we have – and most people do it with little to no training.
Research shows that a strong and positive parent-child relationship is crucial to a child’s development. These pages contain information and resources to help parents strengthen and build a close bond with their children and help navigate risky behaviors as they grow into adolescence.
NOTE: We are always adding to this page; do you have an idea to make it better? Let us know!
|Basic Foundations of Supportive Parenting||How do I talk to my kids about…?|
|Strong parenting begins with relationships that parents create with their children. Here are 5 ways to build a strong and supportive connection.||What do you say when a child asks about, or shares information on, a touchy, tough topic? Here are some suggestions. Want a topic that we don’t have? Tell us!|
|Start by listening – using ears, eyes, and heart
Make time – to talk, play, teach, and listen.
Have clear boundaries and expectations: tell them what you want, and don’t want, them to do
Do things together with them
Take care of yourself
Depression or Suicide
Puberty & Physical Changes
Social Media / Online Safety
Start by listening
“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich
Listening, really listening, means doing so with the ears, the eyes, and the heart.
What does that look like on the outside?
- Show them you’re listening: make eye contact, put down the device, get down on their level; ask questions.
- Use the 1 out of 5 rule: in a 5-minute conversation, they should talk for 4 of those minutes. If not, you might not really be listening!
- Repeat back what they say, It shows that you’re listening, and can give you time to think.
- Ask real questions. “Can you say more about that?”, “How did that make you feel?”, or even just “I’m interested – please keep talking”.
What does listening look like on the inside?
- Clear your mind of all the other things you have going on in there – dinner prep? laundry? It can wait. If it really can’t wait, make an appointment with them to have the conversation later.
- Pause before you reply; many times we are busy preparing our words instead of hearing theirs.
- Listen without judging. This one is so important we gave it a whole page.
Want an easy reminder for home? Download and print LUV Listen cards. Put one on your fridge. Invite your children to show it to you when they feel you’re not listening.
A few additional articles and blogs about listening:
This blog article from Huffington Post offers a story of parent listening and summarizes 6 ways to help parents be intentional about listening.
From a Today Show series, Why you should REALLY listen to your kids. The advice is timeless, despite being 13 years old.
As Jim Higley points out in this article, sometimes listening is enough by itself.
PBS.org offers a series of quick articles and reminders on Positive Ways to Talk and Listen; the examples are for little kids, but the concepts work for any age.
Make time to talk
“To a child, LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E” – Zig Ziglar
Few parents have enough time to do everything, which is why it is important to make time.
Where can parents make time in the course of a busy day to talk (and listen)?
- Share a meal together. Dinner? Breakfast? Set a goal to share a meal at least 2-3 times a week (more is better!). It sounds obvious, but also make the dining table a device-free zone.
- Schedule it! Rather than hoping to have some time, make it a priority. Plan a parent/child date, game night, or even snuggle time.
- Rides to activities or the store are great times for conversation. You’re all in the car together. And often it is easier for teens to talk when they don’t have to look at you.
- Be available when they are. It might not be convenient for you, but giving them even a few minutes can have a big impact on them – and your relationship.
- Do chores or a project together. Dishes, cooking, laundry all need to get done; share time with kids while doing these together.
A few additional articles and blogs about making time:
- A recent Washington Post parenting blog shares steps on how to make Special Time for your kids.
- Action for Happiness outlines details and ideas on the importance of making time for family.
- For ideas on making meal times awesome, visit The Family Dinner Project.
Recognize and validate feelings
“Feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.” – Anne Frank
Parents often unwittingly deny children their feelings. How many times have you heard (or said) “Why are you upset? You had a treat and now want more?”, or “Don’t be sad!”.
Children have a right to their feelings. How they act when they’re upset is a different story, of course.
As parents, acknowledging what children are feeling, and naming them, can help children to build an understanding of their own emotions. This is an important starting block to build empathy.
What are ways that parents can acknowledge feelings?
- Name the feeling. Whether they are really excited, terribly disappointed, or incredibly angry, name it. “That really got you mad. Wow.”
- Show empathy. You don’t need to understand why they feel that way, just understand that they are feeling that way. We have all been anxious, stressed, sad – so we can related to what they are feeling.
- Explore what caused them to feel that way. An argument with a friend? A decision you made as a parent? Ask open-ended questions. Sometimes it helps to suggest what you think they might be feeling, as a way to start the conversation.
A few additional articles about validating kids feelings:
- This quick article on The Power Parenting Tool of Validation gives a brief but clear explanation of what validating is, and isn’t.
- Steps for validating a child’s feelings are neatly outlined in this article from Positive Discipline.
- To better understand kids’ emotional development, look at this link at kidsmatter.org.
Tell them what they do well
Studies have shown that parents are much more likely to call attention to negative behaviors than positive ones. However, research also suggests that a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions is necessary for a healthy relationship.
How can parents flip the numbers?
- ‘Catch them’ being good. Pay attention and take notice of things they do well.
- Tell them what they do well. Not just ‘good job’ but rather be specific: “when you took out the trash I noticed you even picked up some of the little pieces that fell out – thanks for being so thorough!”
- Praise their effort. Children can’t control change how ‘smart’ they are, but they can decide how hard they study. Effort should be acknowledged. “I know you worked really hard on that science project. That was impressive.”
A few additional articles about telling them what they do well:
- This one isn’t quite about what kids do well, but about 6 words – I love to watch you play – that allows them to just enjoy doing their different activities.
- To better understand the idea of praising effort, take 5 minutes for this video of a study on praise and children.
- On behavioradvisor.com, there is a nice recap of catching kids being good, along with many examples and techniques for doing it.
- Encouragement goes beyond praise, as described in this article on brighthorizons.com.
Clear boundaries and expectations
Children need structure in their lives and parents provide much of the structure by providing a clear set of limits (what you can and cannot do) and expectations (what you should do).