I know it’s bad, but I don’t even want to spend time with my child.
He’s so demanding and high-energy.
All we do is argue.
He never listens. It seems like he won’t do anything unless I yell.
Life has just been so hard lately.
I think back to when he was little, we used to take walks and explore nature. He would give me the biggest hugs.
What happened? When did we drift so far apart?
When there’s distance in your relationship.
Disrepair happens slowly. You may not even notice that it’s happening at the time.
Then, one day, you realize how far you’ve drifted from one another.
It can feel shocking, sad, frustrating, or lonely.
But, you don’t have to stay stuck in a distant relationship. There are things you can do to repair a relationship with your child, even if it feels like an impossible task.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
How to repair a relationship with your child.
- Acknowledge the rift: In a calm moment, let your child know what you’ve observed and how you feel about it. Your child’s response may vary. They may agree, disagree, be indifferent, angry or annoyed. Whatever their response, keep the focus on your own thoughts and feelings, rather than forcing them to agree or feel the same. “I realize things have been a little tense between us. That makes me sad, I want to work on easing that tension.”
- Make Amends: Rather than focusing on your child’s behavior or actions, take responsibility for your part in the disrepair. Have you been busy, impatient, frustrated, controlling, etc? Apologize and work on making it right with your child. Keep it simple, and avoid adding”…but, you should…” to the end. “I’m sorry that I’ve been distracted after school lately, I’m going to put my phone away, so I can focus on listening better.”
- Engage in an activity together: Rather than allowing the distance to continue, work to find something to do that gives you a chance to be together. It may be a board game, shooting baskets, taking a walk or even playing a video game. Sometimes, it’s best to just be together in silence, rather than forcing your child to talk. If your child is resistant, keep the door open and continue to look for opportunities to spend time together.
- Do something different: Replace negative communication patterns with something helpful or positive. That may mean taking a deep breath before responding to your child, focusing on listening rather than giving advice or working on being empathetic (even if you don’t necessarily agree). It may take time for this new behavior to become a habit. In the meantime, give yourself permission to be a “work in progress.”
- Be patient: One of the most challenging aspects of repairing a relationship is not being in control of the other person. When working on a repair, don’t force it. Somedays it may seem that your efforts are not making a difference. Your child may be skeptical of your intentions or wondering if you will be consistent. Above all, your child wants to know that you love and value them and the relationship. Your hard work is not for nothing, but it may take time to see the results.
- Get professional help: If the relationship is damaged due to abuse, neglect, addiction or mental health concerns, or if it’s just not getting any better, it’s best to seek the help of a mental health professional. Therapists can help you and your child navigate the choppy waters of building trust, learning new skills and engaging in healthy patterns. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health support, it’s a sign that you realize the importance of your relationship and value it enough to get help.
- Make space for grief: Waiting can be exhausting. And for some parents, despite numerous efforts and attempts at repair, the distance remains. Allow yourself time to grieve the loss or change of the relationship. Feeling sad or discouraged doesn’t mean you’ve given up hope for reconciliation. Find support from other adults who are willing to listen, encourage, and even cry with you, during this difficult time.
Look for the good.
Repairing a damaged relationship can be “one step forward, two steps back.”
Just when you think you’re back on track, something happens, and there’s distance again.
Instead of waiting for perfection, look for the good.
- Notice when your child hangs around a little more than usual.
- Smile when he walks into the room.
- Celebrate when you make it through a transition without an argument.
Find something positive every day.
Then, look for 3 good things.
Slowly, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking. Rather than trying to avoid him, you may start to enjoy him again.
And just when you thought the days of nature walks and hugs were over…
Your child may surprise you.
How can I help?
If repair sounds like a great idea but you have no idea how to put it into place with your child, let’s talk! We can explore what’s going on in your relationship and brainstorm ways to make things better. Learn more about Parent Coaching.