Q: I know my first responsibility to my children is as a parent, but how can I build a friendship with them?
A: There are principles and practices that are foundational to all rich relationships. When it comes to building a friendship with your children, these six are essential.
Articulate a lifetime commitment. A commitment that says, “No matter what happens, I am here for you, and will never stop loving you,” provides the foundation of trust necessary for friendship to develop with your child.
Become a student of your child. Instead of forcing your child to do something or be someone they’re not, learn who they are: their personality, natural talents, dreams, fears, strengths and weaknesses. Interact with and encourage them according to their individual uniqueness and interests.
Schedule time together. Set aside special time for your child every day. Friendships don’t develop by chance or accident, but are the result of spending time together on a regular basis.
Be available. Teachable moments, illnesses, and memorable events don’t always happen according to our schedule. Sometimes we must drop what we’re doing, because our children are more important. By doing so, you’ll provide them with a sense of security and value.
Active listening. A good listener never assumes they know what their child is saying. By giving your child your undivided attention and asking clarifying questions, you’ll be communicating that your child’s words and feelings are extremely important.
Meaningful touch. Not every friendship requires an element of touch, but for your children it’s absolutely essential. A gentle, tender, and warm touch from a parent – hand holding, an arm around the shoulder, and even bear hugs – provides proven physiological and psychological benefits for children, and communicates that they are valued.
Building meaningful friendships with children takes time and effort. But if you commit to and practice these principles, then over time a beautiful friendship can blossom.
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