12 Ways to Build Stronger Relationships with Your Kids

How to Relate in Ways that Bring You Closer

The relationships you have with your kids are some of the most important bonds you'll ever establish. And they're shaping you every bit as much as you're shaping them! Here are 12 strategies to help you build stronger relationships with your kids, at any stage of their development:

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Spend Time Together

A mom enjoys playing outdoor games with her son.
A mom enjoys playing outdoor games with her son. Image © Getty Images / Michele Westmorland

Make a habit of doing things together. Even if it's just running to the store or taking a walk, those moments are an opportunity connect about what's happening in each of your daily lives.

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Eat Meals Together

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If it's not realistic for your family to eat dinner together every night, aim for several nights a week and make up for the lost time by eating breakfast together. The idea is create a shared space in your regular lives when you can all expect to chat about your day and generally catch up.

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Hold Regular Family Meetings

A family meeting over pizza
Photo © Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Family meetings allow you to get the business of being a family out of the way so that you reduce the frustration that comes with unanticipated, last-minute demands -- like soccer uniforms that need to be washed at 11 p.m. or tests that need be signed on the way out the door in the morning. By meeting to discuss what's coming up, you can reduce some of that stress and add a little more fun into your daily interactions.

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Do Chores Together

A girl washing dishes
Photo © Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

From making meals to folding laundry, doing dishes, and cleaning bathrooms, chores are another opportunity to work side-by-side with your kids. This helps them to view your family as a team, while simultaneously spreading around the workload. It's also a great way to prepare your kids with the real life skills they'll need to be successful in adulthood.

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Plan Fun Outings

A boy attends a major league baseball game.
Photo © Jessie Jean / Getty Images

Be intentional about doing something fun with your kids each weekend, and especially during vacations and days off. Whether they voice it or not, they're interested in being with you. They crave your attention, and doing something you all enjoy is a great way to give it to them. Whether it's a day at the zoo or 30 minutes at their favorite skating park, these outings matter.

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Ask Questions

Mom and daughters talking
Photo © Mother Image/Getty Images

As your kids get older, you'll get accustomed to hearing that they did "nothing" all day in school. Don't settle for one-word answers. Instead, ask probing questions that require more than a quick yes or no. For example, ask "What was the best part of your day?" or "Tell me something that surprised you." Soon you'll be having more in-depth, two-way conversations that you'll both enjoy!

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Share a Journal

Photo © TSchon

Grab a spiral notebook and write a letter to your child. Then ask your child to write back. This is an especially great habit for parents and kids who live apart part of the time, because it gives you a glimpse into their daily lives. But even if your kids are with you all the time, shared journaling can be an easy way for them to ask you questions while also developing more advanced writing skills.

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Invite Their Friends Over

Three Girls Using a Computer
Summer enrichment classes can help your child gain valuable computer skills. © Ableimages / Getty Images

It's important to know who your kids are spending time with. And the more you know about your kids' friends, the more well-rounded and accurate picture you'll have of their social life and what they're doing when you're not together.

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Be Approachable

A mom speaks with her teen about sex.
Don't wait to talk to your teen about sex. Photo © Ryan McVay / Getty Images

Let your kids know that you're available to talk about anything that's on their minds. And when your child does something that upsets you, try to talk about it in a calm, reasonable manner. Ask them to tell you what happened and why, and discuss alternatives without anger or judgement.

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Be a Coach

A mother talking with her child.
© Cavan Images / Getty Images

I don't just mean sports! (Although coaching little league or soccer is a great way to spend time with your kids.) Here, I'm referring to being a person who provides guidance. Don't just tell your kids what to do, explain the why behind it. This will help them to understand the bigger picture and see themselves -- and their contribution -- as part of a larger whole.

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Communicate Unconditional Love and Acceptance

A mom hugs her son good-bye.
Photo © Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The best thing my mother ever said to me was "I may not always love what you do, but I'll always love you." It's important for our kids to know, with 100% certainty, that they can't lose our love for them. Be intentional about letting your kids know that there's no poor decision or behavior that could ever erase your love. You may be mad; you may be disappointed. But you'll never stop loving them.

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Invest in Your Relationship

A father plays chess with his kids.
A father plays chess with his kids. Photo © Andersen Ross / Getty Images

Finally, remember that you're cultivating a relationship. The time you're putting in now will pay off down the road, when your kids continue to display the values you've taught them even when they could choose to do otherwise. Trust that every sacrifice, conversation, and hour of time you invest is truly contributing to the person your child is growing up to be!