Nurturing family relationships for kids: Here's what to know

A good relationship is based on trust, security and love.
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A good relationship is based on trust, security, and love, and nurturing these three values is essential to having a healthy relationship with your child. Even though your child is becoming more involved in her relationships with peers, it is still important for you to remain responsive to her needs and let her know that you are there to guide and support her. You are your child’s first teacher, and the relationship you have with her is the foundation of her emotional and social development.

Support honesty in your relationship with your child. When you mean what you say and say what you mean, you’re not only ensuring that your child understands your expectations, but also helping to build her sense of integrity. You can begin to do this by explaining the rules of your household and making sure you stick to them. The same goes for dealing with bad behavior. For instance, if your child does something wrong and you tell her that she won’t be able to go out to the movies with her friends over the weekend, make sure you reinforce your words with actions. Providing the reasons behind your decisions also helps to solidify your bond with one another. If you explain to your child, why, for example, she should not hit her siblings when they don’t give her their toys, you are helping to raise a child who flourishes in social activities. Provide a caring and supportive environment for your child. Research suggests that children who have a sense of security with people who care for and protect them are better equipped to deal with socialization outside the home.

This is a time when your child is trying to define herself as an individual apart from the family circle. As she becomes more socially active, she is making more decisions and problem-solving independently. Your child is beginning to view the world in more complex ways as she becomes a more critical thinker. It is normal for your child to question you at this age as she searches for her place and voice in the world, and to become more private about her thoughts, no matter how positive your relationship with her may be. The introduction of early adolescence is a significant turning point in your relationship with your child, and it is important to be supportive and accepting of her need for more independence. Every child has a desire to be heard, to matter, and to be respected, and you can help guide your child through these years.

The way that your children interact with one another sets the tone for the way they relate to others, and it is important to take this into account as you help them build their relationship skills. There are more challenging behaviors, like sibling rivalry, that are common to this age group, and it’s good to address these issues before they become bigger problems. When siblings argue, try not to always attempt to resolve the issue, as it is best for your children to learn how to get along on their own. Instead, explain to them why they need to get along and ask them for ways they could solve the issue together.

Try to let your children work out their problems on their own. Tell your children that they can resolve issues by seeing the situation from each other’s perspective or by stepping away from arguments for a while to figure out a better solution. If you see your children hitting each other, stop them immediately, and remind them that this is not the proper way to treat others. Be very clear that hitting a sibling back even if they were hit first is not acceptable and discuss alternatives.

If they absolutely can’t reach a compromise, ask them to explain the issue, and tell them to provide you with ways to solve it. After they come up with their solutions, ask them to agree on one, and move forward. Teaching your children how to resolve arguments allows them to become more socially competent, and when you trust in your children to make the right choices, you are giving them the freedom to be more independent thinkers.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.