Every child is unique. We may joke that our son is just like his Uncle Jim or our daughter is a miniature version of our sister, Katie, but no matter how much resemblance there may be, we know they’re really one of a kind. As parents, we face a never-ending list of tough decisions about our kids and we try to shape them into healthy adults. It’s never simple or easy.

So what can we do to bring out the best in our kids and help them grow into the happy adults they deserve to become? A lot of it has to do with remembering their uniqueness and giving them the right kind of support and guidance while ensuring they know they’re loved. The good news is we can connect with our kids through a few meaningful ways that are easy to do. For example:

Have fun and laugh. Remember the fun you had running around and acting silly as a kid? It doesn’t have to stop just because you’ve celebrated a few more birthdays. Doing silly things with your kids lets them see a different side of you and teaches them grown-ups are allowed to have fun, too.

Play games. Whether you enjoy board games, connect four, or backyard volleyball, play is a great way to build connections with your kids. Games help them develop interpersonal skills. Science has proven time and again that playfulness and fun games actually reduces stress.

Challenge them in new ways. You don’t want your kids to make mistakes, so you try to show them the best way to do things. But being lectured doesn’t build confidence. When you’re playing miniature golf, they don’t need to putt like a PGA pro. Don’t overwhelm them with advice. Let them ask for it when they need it, and offer it with a friendly voice instead of like a drill sergeant. Offer them fun challenges and encourage them to try new things.

Trust them. Give your kids responsibilities and turn them loose. Ask them to mow the lawn or wash the dishes and don’t stand over their shoulders monitoring them. When they’re done, thank and praise them. For you, mowing the lawn may be drudgery, but your child may see it as an adventure. And when they realize you have confidence in them, they’ll develop more of it as well.

Say you’re sorry. We all make mistakes and say things we regret. Teach your kids that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that relationships can repair when there are common goals and mutual love and respect.

Develop common interests. Maybe it’s baking or building model cars. Sharing an interest with your child helps you strengthen your relationship with them and gives them skills to help them build relationships with others.

When you help your child realize they’re unique and have value, you help them grow into emotionally healthy adults .. and you’ll help them become better parents when the time comes. Not confident in your own parenting skills? Maybe it’s time to sit down with one of our counselors for some hints and tips to help you get more enjoyment out of parenting and help you build a stronger, more long-lasting relationship with your kids.



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