Helping Parents Build Strong Relationships With Their Children

Available with English captions and subtitles in Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish.

Dr. Lisa Coyne talks about how to connect with your kids and answers audience questions about strengthening bonds with your children, regardless of their age.

Depending on age, relationship, and other circumstances, there may be times where you feel as if you’re light-years away from your kid. Despite trying to connect with them, it seems like you can’t get through, no matter how hard you try. So how can you bond with your child or adolescent, especially if you’re already feeling challenged by the relationship?

Audience Questions

Dr. Coyne answers these questions from audience members:

  • What are the biggest differences between parenting a kid versus parenting a teen?
  • When talking about safety, the internet first comes to mind. How do we get safety across to kids without sounding like a nuisance?
  • How do I best connect with my teen who just hangs out in their room? I try to engage with them to come watch a movie, play cards, games, etc. as a family.
  • My 14-year-old daughter seems to be getting more and more shy. The shyness is also causing social anxiety, or it could be the social anxiety is causing the shyness. Either way, how do I approach this topic with her? Can you suggest activities that would help her out of challenges she’s experiencing?
  • How can I meet my kid in the middle if they’re angry? I want to validate their feelings, but how can someone so small be so angry?
  • How do you help a 6-year-old develop emotionally and socially when their parent struggles with depression and anxiety?
  • I want to help my 13-year-old daughter with decision-making. I struggle with allowing her to make mistakes and learn from them versus guiding her away from a bad decision. Do you have any suggestions?
  • How worried should I be about my teen and distance learning? Will learning from home for a year and a half offer us any challenges when they physically go back to school in the future?
  • With the closure of school, in the spring and now continuing in the fall, I am finding that I am my 6-year-old daughter’s sole emotional and social support. I play with her for about 1-2 hours per day, snuggle, and read at bedtime. What sort of strategies do you recommend I use to provide the support she needs?
  • I’m having a difficult time connecting with my 9-year-old son. He plays lots of video games, as are many children with working parents. My daughter insists that she and I play together, so I’m spending more time with her. What strategies should I use to connect with him?
  • My 12-year-old has started cursing a lot while gaming with friends. How can I approach this in a way that will get him to listen to me?
  • My daughter self-diagnosed as having disassociation due to childhood trauma. I was trying to get her officially diagnosed but didn’t hear back from some professionals. What type of professional should I speak with regarding an evaluation for her?
  • My husband and I are very active and emphasize being outside, healthy eating, etc. My 13-year-old seems to want to create an identity as being unlike us. It’s hard to connect when she’s trying to make it clear she is not like us and refuses to go out, be active, etc. It’s okay not to be like us, but it’s hard to deal with a total refusal to leave the house or move around. Do you have any recommendations?
  • How do parents encourage teens to face their fear of being judged? For example, when we encourage them to invite a friend to an outing, they don’t want to involve their friends. If we nudge, they say, “leave me alone, you’re not respecting me.”
  • I have a 4-year-old who cries in hysterics every time we leave a family visit, as she thinks we won’t see them again. We tell her when we will be seeing them again and communicate in advance the time that we need to leave, but she still is overly emotional with goodbyes. I don’t want her to stop expressing her emotions but want to find a balance. How can I best help her?
  • My 8-year-old is a sensitive and thoughtful but fearful child. He is also highly intelligent but has significantly slow processing speed. He has really been struggling during this time, including pulling away from me lately and sometimes pushing me away with derogatory comments. Before, he was adoring and almost needy for my attention. How might I navigate this?
  • My sister has depression and her husband is a recovering alcoholic. They have two teenage boys, one who deals with anxiety and the other has depression, and all family members are in therapy. How do I best support my sister from afar when she calls to talk because of issues with her family?
  • My 11-year-old is normally a happy-go-lucky and very open child. I’ve noticed he is becoming more reserved and, despite past behaviors, he has been less likely to engage with kids who aren’t his friends. He seems to prefer to play alone rather than with others. I try to talk to him and ask him about it, but he says that he’s fine. What sort of questions can I ask to get him to engage and share his feelings?
  • If we’ve never set ground rules with our kids, how do we initiate them?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.

Additional Information

You may find these resources helpful:

About Dr. Coyne

Lisa W. Coyne, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and is a senior clinical consultant at the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute (OCDI Jr.) at McLean Hospital.

Dr. Coyne has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on anxiety, OCD, and parenting. She is the author of “The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years,” a book for parents of young children.

Recent books by Dr. Coyne:

Learn more about Dr. Coyne.

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