A New Relationship with Your Kids: 5 Skills for the New Year

Jan 15, 2016

There are so many New Year’s Resolutions made each year, and it’s a commitment to keep them! One of the resolutions that I think is the most important that you can make for this new year is a more loving, respectful, and communicative relationship with your children in 2016. Here are my top five tips for creating the type of family that you desire with play therapy principles!

Tracking Behavior

It is extremely helpful to pay attention to the things that interest your children, even if you are not actively involved in the creation of the fort or the serving at the tea party. Telling them what you see them doing is a powerful way to make them feel loved and noticed. As you observe their actions, state their behaviors back to them. This would sound like: “You are stacking the boxes taller.” or “You are giving everyone their tea.”

Reflecting Feelings

This is one of the basics for play therapy principles. Any time your child expresses an emotion, positive or negative, you tell them what you think they are feeling. Try to match your tone of voice and facial expression to theirs. Keep the reflection simple, short, and concise, without a lot of inference or explanation. This might look like: “You are so excited!” or “You are frustrated.”


You want to instill confidence and self-worth in your children, and here is a simple way to do that! Acknowledge the child for the effort that was put forth, no matter the outcome. Even if the child loses at a game, does not get an A at school, or his team doesn’t win, you can still encourage him. This would sound like: “You worked really hard.” or “You didn’t give up!”

Choice Giving

Anytime a child can be given a choice, she learns consequences and outcomes of actions. Plus, it builds decision making skills and grows confidence in her ability to make a choice independently. Choices can be given for the sake of empowerment. This would be: “You can choose to play Monopoly or Twister. Which do you choose?” or “You can choose your blue jacket or your black sweater. Which do you choose?”

Limit Setting

Limit setting is an effective way to move a child away from a behavior that is not acceptable in a respectful and kind way. This allows you to be in control of the situation, while still giving the child a measure of control as well. You set the limit, and allow the child to decide which action to take. This would look like: “I know that you are having fun with the Legos, but it is time for dinner. You can choose to put the Legos away right now, or you can choose to eat now and play with the Legos after dinner. Which do you choose?” **Notice how this skill uses Reflecting Feelings and Choice Giving!

As you commit this year to a healthier and happier family life, and a better relationship with your children, please know that it is possible and easier than you may think! A few skills added to your tool belt, based in play therapy, can give you more confidence in your parenting and your ability to connect with your children. Parents that have taken my online parent training (Child Parent Relationship Therapy) are still telling me what a difference a few short weeks made in their relationships and their families!

Whether you start using these five skills right away and see a difference in your interactions with your kids, or whether you sign up for the CPRT online training because you want to kickstart your new relationships, I know that 2016 is going to be a great year for you and your families. Here’s to the family lives that you desire – it starts with a small first step now! 🙂