Many parents have a natural tendency to want their children to grow up and be just like them. They may fantasize about bonding over shared interests. But, the reality is often not the case. In this quick tip episode, we discuss ways parents can connect with their children who have different interests and hobbies.
Notice the Similarities
Maybe you are a sports fan and eager to take your child to a baseball game, but they don’t like sports. Or maybe you loved reading Harry Potter at their age, but your child only likes graphic novels. Parents may feel disappointed as a result. This disappointment can come from not having the same interests, or from a difference between expectations and reality, or because you are unsure of how to bond with a child who has dissimilar interests. Although it may be challenging, it’s key for parents to remember that nothing is wrong with you **as a parent if you struggle to understand one child more than another.
If you are worried about connecting with your child, there are ways to empathize and bond with your child that can help. It is also important for parents to avoid trying to change their children or try to make them enjoy certain things that you might. One of the best things a parent can do for their children and for themselves is to see them for who they are and work to meet them there. By focusing on your child’s differences, you give greater value to their identity. But similarities and differences exist side by side. For example, if you like to reach fiction books and your child likes to read graphic novels, the similarity is that you both enjoy reading. By finding the similarities in the differences you can come up with a common ground like taking a trip to the library together.
Focus on Strengths
Another tip is to focus on your child’s strengths. As a parent, you want to support your child and what brings them happiness, even if it differs from what brings you happiness. A good way to start is by seeing why they enjoy the things they do, and admiring their strengths. For example, you might have been shy as a child, whereas your child is very social and outgoing. Watching your child make friends easily may bring up feelings from your childhood. But instead of dwelling on the times, you felt lonely, use this as an opportunity to admire their personality and friendliness. Compliment your child on their ability to make friends and you may even learn from them how to be more outgoing yourself! When you see kids’ unique traits as their strengths, you begin to understand what makes them unique. By admiring their strengths, you are able to connect with them, even when those traits are not ones that you share.
Create a New Shared Experience
Lastly, use shared experiences as a way to bond with your child. Studies in psychology have shown that vulnerability is key in strengthening connections with others. According to Dr. Hisla Bates, M.D., learning new things together strengthens bonds because it is at those moments we can show our vulnerability to one another. When trying something new, neither person is an expert, and mistakes and failures are going to happen. But in those moments of failure, the other person can show support and working to do something together helps deepen the bond. Trying new things together also brings people closer because every time you think of trying that new thing, you think of the people you had that experience with.
By selecting activities that both people are unfamiliar with, will ensure you’re on the same page. An example of this could be trying a new activity like hiking, eating a new food, or playing a new game. This also works to increase connection in other relationships in your lives like with your partner or your friends. You never know, you may just find something new that you both are passionate about.