As a parent it seems to be harder to connect with our kids than ever before. There is so much information accessible to them and they are often lost in a digital world - playing video games, watching YouTube videos, etc. How can you make sure that you’re maintaining a positive connection with them? I’ve created a list of things to try and things to avoid to help you with this.

Making time to connect by:

  • Doing a daily check-in at a specific time;
  • Having a family dinner or movie/game night;
  • Writing sticky notes and leaving them on their door or in their lunch;
  • Texting them to let you know you’re thinking about them; or
  • Doing things that they find interesting.

Being warm and approachable by:

  • Making time for them so they feel you’re available - they likely won’t approach you if you’re always busy on a device or doing other things; or
  • Being open to what they want to discuss.

Being curious by:

  • Asking them about their day;
  • Talking about their interests;
  • Asking questions like: "I wonder why…"; "I wonder if you’re feeling (name a feeling) because…"; or
  • Hazarding a few guesses if you’re not sure what’s going on (i.e. “Are you upset because of something that happened at school?” or “Are you angry because your friends didn’t invite you to the movies?”) - don’t overdo this or else it will seem too pushy.

Creating a safe environment by:

  • Having consistent structure and boundaries that become expected and respected; or
  • Setting and enforcing limits - with time on devices, with how much time is spent with friends, with bedtimes, etc.

Validating their feelings by:

  • Communicating that you understand a feeling and it makes sense in the situation. It does not mean that you agree with the resulting behaviour. For example, I understand you’re angry; however, it’s not okay to yell at me.


Invalidating their feelings by:

  • Saying things like - "It's going to be fine; you’re okay"; "It's not that big of a deal”; “Don’t be so dramatic". Kids will learn that their feelings don’t make sense and they can’t trust them. They also won’t feel that you understand and will be less likely to approach you.

Shaming by:

  • Making them feel that there is something wrong with them for feeling that way; or
  • Making them feel that they are bad vs. that they did something wrong.

Isolating them or isolating yourself from them.

Giving them the silent treatment to show you don’t approve of their behaviour.

I hope that you find these tips and tricks useful and they help you create a more meaningful relationship with your youth. If your youth is experiencing significant mental health and/or behavioural challenges it can be difficult to establish connections with them. If this is the case, please contact me at or visit my website at to see if my services would benefit you.

Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan


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