In an earlier post, Close the Distance, the idea was to get closer in physical proximity to avoid raised voices, tension, and misunderstandings.
What about closing another kind of distance – a distance that may have developed when what the parents are doing isn’t working? Or when children get to that age where they seemingly want little to do with their parents?
Before closing this distance, visualize yourself being the parent you want to be, having the relationship you desire. Remind yourself that your child is a valuable, precious human being. And you are valuable to them (even though they might deny it.) Visualize being with your child. See yourself with an open mind and heart. Imagine the energy in your body is pleasant and light.
Outwardly, closing this distance with younger children involves kneeling down to their level; letting them know you miss them when they’re gone and are glad that they are in your life; getting playful and creative with singing, dancing, reading or sitting together. Friendliness helps close the distance.
With older children, they tend to withdraw from adults when they feel misunderstood or have other strong emotions like anger, fear, or self-judgment. Don’t expect them to take the initiative. They have a need for privacy. Look for opportunities to close the distance, yet still respect this need. Look for an invitation from them in a glance or a word. And invite them into your space.
Use gentle, friendly words. Share something from your day, then ask, “What happened in yours?” (Avoid asking “yes” and “no” questions or “How was your day today?” The most common response is “fine”… )
I like this suggestion on how to talk to teens from Ken Canfield on fathers.com:
“It’s so important to treat teens with respect—even if they don’t show respect to us. We can’t take their disrespect personally. If your teenager comes home in a foul mood, try a statement like this: ‘Wow, it looks like you have a lot on your mind. Why don’t you take a break, and if you want to talk about something, just let me know.'”
Touch is as important now as ever. Ask if you can give your child a hug or hold their hand.
Above all, be prepared to listen. Sometimes we all need to be simply heard – without an agenda of fixing or changing us.
Find a way to let your child know that you are glad they are in your life. Daily. This will surely help close the distance. And,even if the distance isn’t there, most of us can take advantage of more opportunities to get even closer.