Dad holding daughter’s hands.

Viacheslav Iakobchuk/

Learning How to Relate to Your Kids

Get on their level so they can understand yours

We were all kids once. And we all remember those moments where we could not believe how different we were from our parents. The way we dressed. How we danced. What we liked to do. Even, how we talked. What planet did our parents come from, we asked?

Looking back now, we know our parents were asking the same things about the younger versions of us. And now as parents ourselves, we are wondering what on earth our kids are thinking? It’s all part of the generational parent-child life cycle, and although it seems impossible to contemplate, the whole “How can we be so different?” thought process, is actually pretty standard.

There is no way to stop the cycle entirely, and we don’t want to. It’s part of a healthy progression and evolution of society. After all, they are supposed to be better than us, right? But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to bridge the gap between us and better relate to our children. It will help us raise better children and let them understand why we do what we do.

One of the best ways to understand your children involves watching what they do when they are being entertained.
  • Put in the work – No matter how much you love your children, they will invariably get on your nerves. Don’t let that stop you from spending “in-between” time with them. While eating dinner, celebrating parties, and game nights represent typical quality time activities, “in-between time” involves the time spent together doing regular chores or down time. This is usually when kids open up about real issues in their life, but you have to be ready and willing to hear it. Experts suggest listening to your children, withholding as much judgement as you can. "If they feel listened to, they are more likely to be able to listen and will feel more understood, have more trust, and be more interested in what you have to say," explains New York City psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD to WebMD.
  • Get Digi With It!– Whether it be video games, social media, texting or whatever, it’s important to be part of that world, so you can understand what your kids are dealing with. A study at Brigham Young University of 500 families found that teenagers who connect with their parents on social media felt closer to them in real life. That doesn’t mean giving in to your children’s desire to get a cell phone when he or she is 6, or letting them spend all day playing video games, but it does mean understanding the current context. The more you are involved the better you will be able to determine how to navigate through this tricky world.
  • Learn the Vocab On the most basic level, the words we use and how well we understand the words they use will determine how effectively we can communicate. While you may cringe when you hear phrases like “adorbs” or “on fleek,” chastising your children about using them might be more harmful than productive. Take the time to ask them what unfamiliar words or phrases mean and then use them with your kids.
  • Flex Fun Muscles - One of the best ways to understand your children involves watching what they do when they are being entertained. They will get to know you better when they see you doing the same. “Parents talking about what they’re seeing either during the experience or afterwards can be important. We’re constantly translating and interpreting what we see on a screen or a particular device so the more an adult can encourage conversation around that experience the deeper the experience becomes,” explains Shelley Pasnik, director of the Center for Children & Technology.

So, watch the movies and shows they watch – again without too much cynicism – learn the dances they do, and just figure out what makes them laugh. That is the best way to relate to them. You’ll end up seeing that as crazy as it seems, they are more like you than you ever thought.