If you haven’t learned to text or FaceTime with your teen, you may want to start immediately, especially if you’re divorced.
Digital Communication and Healthy Parent-Child Relationships
Can frequent digital communication foster healthy parent-child relationships?
A recent study from Kansas State University published in the Journal of Family Issues reveals that divorced parents’ frequent texting, video chatting, and other digital communication with their 10- to 18-year-olds were associated with a significant advantage in youth resiliency.
Three types of post-divorce co-parenting relationships were evaluated, along with the frequency of communication. It was previously believed that a positive co-parenting relationship after divorce was the most important factor for happy, non-stressed kids.
However, this study reveals that frequent parent-child communication may be the most critical factor of all.
South Florida psychologist Lori Ben-Ezra says that one of the primary takeaways from this study is that the quality of a parent’s relationship with their children is within their control. Even if the co-parenting relationship is difficult, “it is still possible for parents to engage in warm, close relationships with their children,” she says.
Ben-Ezra encourages parents to take ownership and not blame divorce or uncooperative exes for a poor relationship with their child. “The responsibility for maintaining and nurturing relationships with children falls on each parent.”
How to Develop a Close Relationship
Ben-Ezra suggests three strategies to facilitate this:
1. Make the time to touch base.
Set a time to talk, text, or video chat on a daily basis, even if just for a short while, to touch base about what went on in your child’s day. This keeps a warm and open connection alive.
2. Attend activities.
If you live locally, prioritize attending school and extracurricular functions so that your child sees that you are involved. Attending on days when you are not the residential parent shows your child that they are still important to you.
3. Use texts to reach out.
Short texts to wish a good morning or good night are also a quick, effective way to touch base with a child who is not living with you. Don’t set any expectations for receiving a response. This is just about the parent reaching out to say, “Hey kiddo! Just thinking about you and hoping you have a good day.”