Aristotle said, “a friend is a second self” and what testifies to that statement more than a friendship with the miniature versions of you—your son or daughter. Deep, loving bonds can develop at an early age and establishing a friendship with your child at a young age gives your relationship more time to grow. But it’s never too late to be a friend. Try these tips for starting and maintaining a lifelong friendship with your child.
Get to Know Them
Every relationship starts with a getting-to-know-you phase and a friendship with your child does, too. Get to know them as individuals—not just Daddy’s little girl or boy—, know their interests, hobbies and favorite things. Know who their friends are, how they’re doing in school and their goals. The more you know about them, the easier it is to find common ground.
Talk to Them
It seems simple, but can be hard to do. It’s important to establish a bond with your child for him/her to feel they can come to you. Talk to your child about the small things—like your day or something funny you heard—or start a conversation just for the sake of talking to them. By letting your child into your life, you make it easier for them to let you into theirs. Those chitchats can help them feel comfortable talking to you about more serious matters when they arise.
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Spend Time Together
An important part of maintaining a friendship with your child is spending quality time together and staying connected. Show your child you’re interested in their life and be an active part of it. Support their extracurricular interests: cheer them on at sporting events or musical events and be there to congratulate them at award ceremonies. Eating together regularly will give your family time to talk about your days and stay connected. Trips to the park, going to the movies or going out for ice cream can be bribes, but they can also be excellent ways to spend quality time together. Set aside some time in your day or week to spend with your child and make it something you’ll both look forward to.
Be a Role Model
The relationship you have with others sets the tempo for your relationship with your child as well as the relationship your child has with others. Whether they’ll admit it or not, your child looks up to you and they tend to emulate your actions and practices. Be a good role model and remember the golden rule. Treat the people in your life the way you would want and expect your child to treat the ones in theirs.
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Give Them Space
Although your child may be growing up—and consequently, may be talking to you less—it doesn’t necessarily mean the two of you are growing apart. Sometimes, the best way to stay close is to give your child a little space. Be their confidante and their shoulder to cry on, but let them come to you instead of offering unsolicited advice or shoving a box of tissues in their faces. Every relationship needs some time and space to grow and it’s important for your child to know that you trust them to make their own decisions—and sometimes, their own mistakes. Let them stand on their own, but let them know you’re there if they need you.
Sometimes busy schedules can keep you from spending as much time with your child as you would like. Like all relationships, friendships need nurturing. If you feel like you’re starting to lose touch, make the time to reconnect with your child. Get filled in on what’s been going on in their lives and catch up.
Remember Your Role
Before you get caught up in your BFF status, it’s important to remember you’re still the parent. Having a close friendship with your children doesn’t exempt you from making tough decisions. Know when to draw the line. When it comes to your child’s welfare, it’s better to be an authority figure than an appeasing friend. You may be unpopular for a while, but they’ll thank you in the long run when they realize you only have their best interest in mind.