Written by: Shani Fowler
Do you often wonder how to be friends with your kids?? There are different schools of thought on this, after all, we already have a full and busy role as a parent so is there a space in this role to be a friend to them too? If we are a friend does that intrude on our role as being the ones in command? The answer is of course not straight forward. It’s a bit like being in charge at work but wanting to be friends with the workforce – striking the balance is not easy.
I believe the answer lies in the changing role of the parent over your child’s life. As children grow and adolescence and adulthood emerge the ground somewhat shifts.
Baby is born…
Parents are ultimate carers to babies and infants, providing love and stability, making sure our tiny children have their primary needs met and are happy. As children develop we continue to provide that love and stability but also guide them. We have to also set out ground rules in the process, making sure their homework is done, their dinners are eaten, teaching them to be respectful, as well as continuing to make sure that they are clean, safe and happy.
As children grow, their dependence on us diminishes and this is when our role as a parent changes. At first the changes are probably quite subtle but gradually we leave the role from being their carer to more that of their guider and friendship develops.
The teenage years…
Probably the worst time for this parent-friend juggling act is during adolescence. During this period the relationship between children and parents can travel over some turbulent ground, even to the point where the child and parent don’t appear to get along at all. Children have their own opinions and demands that often clash with those of the parent.
It’s hard as a parent to realise that they are not required the way they once were but with this comes a new chapter, a time to embrace some changes. The smoother the path in the raising and guiding of our children the more likely a healthy and sustainable friendship will develop.
Allow Decision Making
Parents need to allow children to decision make. Children need to be make choices and allowed to make their own mistakes. It can be hard standing by watching them do this, and we ultimately want to step in and tell them where they are going wrong – but we learn from our mistakes and if we aren’t allowed to make any how can we learn? Let them know we have faith in their ability to put right something if it goes wrong.
Gradually allow children more freedom but still enforcing reasonable curfew times depending on their age of course. Listen And Allow Them To Express Themselves.
Listening to your children is important. Sometimes we can be too busy imparting what we believe. It’s easy to forget that they are individuals. Although it would be nice sometimes if we all agreed and shared similar opinions encourage children to them to express themselves. They are not a carbon copy of us and it is refreshing to know that they can think for themselves.
Do The Things You Like Together
Remember to do the things you all still like to do together. If you have always liked bowling, or going to the cinema or like to go shopping together, continue to do it. It is important that the good times continue and that your shared passion for something remains as the strong building block that it is.
Accept Their Friendships
You may not always agree with your child’s choice of friends or girlfriends and boyfriends but often making this known can have the adverse effect and make that relationship stronger. Try to remember that they have chosen this friend and try and make room for their choice of friends. If you are right and the friend or girlfriend turns out to be a bad choice, be confident that your child will too come to that conclusion in time. When they do make a partner choice and settle try to be as accepting as you can with that choice. Even if it is not someone you would have chosen for them remember that if their partner someone who is making your child happy then that is the best you can possibly wish for.
To be a friend to anyone requires honesty, kindness, support, understanding and investment of time. These too are the requirements of being a friend to your growing up child. As parents, our ultimate aim for our children is that they are healthy and happy. Keeping lines of communication open even in matters of dispute, and letting children know you always love them will help to continue to promote a great and loving friendship, one which they will hopefully let you share with their children too.