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8 Ways to Stay Close to Your Child

Follow these tips to continue to bond with your children – even if they are no longer children.

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1. Set Dinner Time

There’s something comforting about the family gathered around the dinner table, perhaps because that tradition is disappearing. Yet the evening meal is often the one time of day when the family can get together in one place. So make dinner a family affair. Use the time to share news of your day, make weekend plans and enjoy one another’s company. Research shows that adolescents who dine with their family at least several times a week are less likely to smoke and use drugs and they tend to get better exam results.

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2. Back Off, But Stay Close

It’s normal for teens to want to spend more time with friends than parents. But don’t take this to mean your job as a parent is diminished. Find ways to remain involved in your child’s life. For example, while tea parties may be a thing of the past, you can still get to know your children’s friends by making them welcome after school. Staying involved may be more challenging, but it’s an important way of enhancing your relationship with your child.

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3. Share Your Feelings

Of course, spare the intimate details of very personal subjects, but confiding that you, too, occasionally feel angry, insecure or awkward shows your teenager that you’re not just a parent – you’re human. Not only will your child feel closer to you, but he or she may feel safe enough to disclose uncomfortable issues when they arise.

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4. Ask for Their Opinions

Teenagers have opinions about, well, everything, and they aren’t shy about sharing them. So allow them to make more independent decisions. For instance, let them decide when and where to study, what to wear, what after-school activity to pursue. However, keep in mind that some decisions are non-negotiable. Parents need to set limits that protect their child’s health, safety and well-being at every age. These might include curfews, decisions about drinking and sexual activity, or issues around study and university.

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5. Trust Your Children to Make Smart Choices

Of course, they’ll make the wrong ones occasionally. But especially if they’re over 18, give them the chance to work out solutions to problems on their own. Didn’t you want the same from your parents at that age?

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6. Call Before Going Over

If you have an adult child, always call before you go to his or her home, unless it is absolutely necessary. If you’re the parent of a teen, knock before you enter his or her room.

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7. Respect Their Privacy

Don’t read his or her diary, eavesdrop on phone conversations or badger him or her with questions. If any behaviour is troubling you, address it directly, using five little words: ‘Can we talk about it?’ Here’s an example: ‘You seem to be very quiet lately, and I’m worried about you. Can we talk about it?’

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8. Be Honest

Many parents offer praise when they shouldn’t, as well as when they should which can undermine trust. If both your praise and criticism are heartfelt and valid, your children will learn to trust you.