“Without relationship you have nothing.”*
This quote is from my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With. The older I grow the more I realize its truth. Without relationship we have nothing. Relationships are the core of life. The first and most important relationship is with God. From Him we learn what love is and how to love others.
Without our relationships with God and others our lives are not full and complete. Relationships just don’t happen. They require intentionality and perseverance.
When our oldest daughter, Katie, left home in a huff, our relationship was in pieces. (Katie was the inspiration for and my co-author of Love No Matter What.) With her no longer living in our home, a rebellious attitude on her part, and all my “parenting knowledge” dismantled, I had to figure out a way to rebuild relationship with my daughter. I had to find a way to speak love and care in a way she could hear. It was my only hope of being in her life.
So I started on a new path learning how to do relationship with her in a way that she felt loved. Since she had moved out suddenly, I had to quickly figure out how to be a mom to an adult, independent child. There were lots of trials and errors. Eventually I found a rhythm that spoke to Katie and we began to rebuild our relationship.
What I will share seems obvious and easy and to a degree it is. But as I said previously, building relationships takes intentionality and perseverance—two things that are not easy. Here we go.
Here are a few things I did to rebuild relationship with Katie and have since practiced with all our kids.
- Learn her love language but use a variety. Just speaking someone’s primary love language is not enough. I used many avenues to say “I love you and want to be in relationship with you.”
- Cards, texts, social media messages are a few of the ways I communicated with Katie. I like these because they are non-intrusive and don’t require a response from the other person. They say, “I’m thinking of you” without pressuring the other person to respond. I don’t bombard the kids with social media messages. I sometimes send them “pins” I think they would like. I like their Instagram and Facebook posts. Never do anything that would embarrass your child on social media.
- Favorite foods. How easy is it to make your child’s favorite food! When the kids come home I do my best to have at least one of their favorites. My grandma used to do this when the family came for dinner. She made sure she had one thing each person liked. This one small act made me feel special and seen.
- Spoken words of affirmation. Find something to praise your child about and then do so verbally. Don’t we love to hear affirmation about anything in our lives—and more so from a parent? What a gift to give your child! Never underestimate how powerful your words are to your kids.
- Get on board. Be interested in what they’re interested in. Find one or two things you can share in their interests. One thing for Katie was her art. We have driven many miles to see her art shows and were thrilled to do so. This application has helped me build relationship with my three son-in-laws. I have a shared interest with each one. It is so fun.
- Gifts—Something small that says—I’m thinking of you. When Katie first moved out and for a while afterwards, I sent her a package of gum (her favorite) in the mail. I always bought the girls gum when I did my weekly grocery shopping. Mailing her gum told her I was always thinking of her. Even today with all the kids out of college and pursuing their careers, I give small gifts at Valentines Day, Easter, etc.—a unique-to-them something—a $5 Starbucks card, a package of Oreos, a journal.
- Be there. Physically being in our child’s world is priceless to them. Yes, even when they act otherwise. Making time in our lives to be at our kids’ events or just hanging out is loving them like God loves us. God sent Jesus to be in our world, to experience living as a human, to know what it felt like to be us. Then God gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us so we are never alone and God is always with us. Being present with someone and in their world is one of the greatest gives of love we can give. In today’s current culture I need to remind you–put your devices away. Show your kids they have all of you.
- Be available. When your child reaches out to you, be there for them. Take the call. Make room for them in your schedule. Answer the text immediately. You get the idea. Show them they are your priority.
I do these things from love and sincerity of heart. While I more easily know what speaks love to my girls, I want to make sure each of our three son-in-laws feels loved and special, too. I have used these principles to build relationship with them as well. And it is working. While I may miss the mark sometimes, my efforts speak love. This morning I sent four of the kids (who will be running the July 4 5K with me) a screen shot of my run time and a note saying how they inspire me—actually I want to beat them! No word back yet, and that’s okay. It was just one more thread to weave into our relationship. Just one more way of saying, “I love you and you matter to me.” No strings attached.
I know for some of you your efforts are not always received well. For you, I say, “Stay the course.” Use the nonintrusive ideas, with no expectations, and persevere. It is all you can do. Let your efforts rest with God. You too can rest knowing you have done your best. The rest is up to your child.
I know this is a longer post, but relationships are so important. “Without relationship you have nothing.”
For more ideas on building relationship with your kids check out—Love No Matter What.
*Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io. Photograper–Elliott Chau
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.