New Ways to Truly Connect with Your Growing Children

by Laurie Roberts
BStrong Together Contributor

As parents of young children, you are constantly doing for them. Physically taking care of their needs. As they grow and your role changes, your doing becomes a bit more complicated. You may find yourself trying to do for your kids and yet they reject your offer, your advice, your perspective. Do you ever find yourself wanting to fix the challenges they bring you, only to be met with frustration or silence? You might even hear yourself asking someone “What am I supposed to do with this?”.

Here are three skills to DO with your growing child. They may initially seem foreign or inadequate, but, as kids grow, they are looking more to parents as a coach and not necessarily as a manager. Kids are yearning for a bit more control in their day and perhaps their life. They want to begin trusting their own gut and information to make decisions. These skills will help you connect with your children, while teaching them valuable skills along the way.


Acknowledge & Validate

Children, and adults, want to be heard and to feel normal. When you acknowledge someone, you are showing that you have really listened and care about what they are saying. Validating your children’s emotions can help them have the right to feel the way they do. It is not judging whether that emotion is right or wrong, but simply letting them know you have heard them. Reserve your judgment here because your goal is to help them release and feel “normal” for having those feelings in a particular situation. Try these phrases:

“It makes sense that when [situation] happens, you would feel [emotion].”

“It’s understandable you might feel [emotion] when you are [situation].”

“You believe you’ve been [hurt/excluded/situation], it’s no wonder you feel [emotion].”


Stay in the Present Moment

Fears for the future and memories of the past can often invade your thoughts in these conversations with your children. After acknowledging and validating your child, take a deep breath and stay in the present moment to continue to connection. Your buttons may be pushed, and your fears may be provoked. That’s a normal reaction when you are intentional, deliberate, and care deeply for your children. That reaction can also be the precipice that changes the nature of the conversation. Keeping your focus on the present moment can be tough but stay with your child! Later, you can reflect on what made you emotionally react to the situation.


Ask Empowering Questions

These questions are powerful, open-ended, probing, and thought-provoking questions that allow your child to search internally for answers and possibilities. You may be surprised what your child reveals when asked an empowering question and how often they come up with possible solutions- when you give them a chance.

What is really bothering you about this?

What do you want to experience?

How do you think it will work out?

What is another way to look at the situation?

What is one thing you could do to move in the direction you want?

And, when you find yourself wanting to add a bit of advice or adult perspective, ask their permission first. This simple question helps them feel more control over receiving your advice.

“How would you feel about trying [your idea]?”

“What do you think about [your idea]?”

Although your "doing" may be changing, your influence will expand by truly connecting with your children. Listening to them may be the most powerful "doing" tool.

Laurie Roberts a Certified Professional Coach accredited by the International Coach Federation, helping adults and students find their true path in life. As a Master Practitioner of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, she has helped students and families learn more about their natural preferences and how it impacts relationships, school, family dynamics, and career choices. She has two children in Barrington 220 schools. Learn more at

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