Survey from TIME For Kids and Nemours’ KidsHealth.org Reveals How Parents Can Foster Better Relationships with their Kids

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Expressing pride in children can be more powerful than most parents realize

Survey results show more than half of children ages 8 to 14 get along with their parents "very well" or "pretty well".

Many studies have linked a strong positive relationship with a parent to more resilience in children.

(March 21, 2016) – Parents can be encouraged by the results of a new survey from TIME For Kids and KidsHealth.org. The study of more than 8,000 children ages 8 to 14, and more than 900 parents revealed that children who feel their parents are proud of them more often have positive relationships with their parents and exhibit more positive behavior traits. However, kids may not always know their parents are proud of them. Overall, 82% of parents say they are proud of their child but only 69% of children say their parents are proud of them.

Unfortunately, this disconnect grows wider among older kids. For kids 8 to 11, there is an 11 % gap (76% of 8-to-11-year-olds said their parents were proud of them, while 87% of those parents reported feeling proud). That increases to a 20 % difference among kids 12 to 14 (only 58% of kids in that age group felt their parents’ pride while 78% of those parents felt pride in their child).

“As kids get older, it’s natural for more areas of conflict to arise,” says D’Arcy Lyness, Ph.D., behavior health editor at KidsHealth.org and one of the survey authors. “But parents who continue to convey to their kids the things that make them proud provide a firmer foundation on which to continue to foster their relationship.”

When parents feel proud of their kids, and kids know it, the parent-child relationship is likely to be stronger. The survey found that 93% of the younger kids and 88% of the older kids who felt their parents were proud of them also said they felt “close” or “very close” to their parents. Among kids who said their parents are not proud of them, the feeling of closeness was drastically reduced; only 30 % and 22% respectively. “Many studies have linked a strong positive relationship with a parent to more resilience in children. In turn, higher resilience often predicts better school performance, less depression and anxiety, better relationships with teachers and peers, and better problem-solving,” says Edward Hass, Ph.D., director of research and outcomes at KidsHealth.org, and the lead survey author.

“At TIME For Kids, we create resources for teaching kids about their world and empowering them to be active citizens. Through this survey, and others we have conducted jointly with KidsHealth.org, we gain a better understanding of our young readers—their thoughts, their feelings, and what they need from the adults in their life—and we give kids a voice. We let them know that their views matter," says TIME Edge executive editor Suzanne Zimbler, who wrote the TIME For Kids cover story about the survey.

TIME For Kids and KidsHealth.org regularly conduct nationwide surveys to find out what kids are thinking and how they are feeling about various topics. This latest survey examined several parts of the parent-child relationship, including having fun together, feeling close to each other, frequency and tone of arguments, reconciliation style, lying, support, encouragement, and whether kids want to be like their parents if they are parents someday.

The survey found some sharp differences between younger kids (8 to 11) and older kids (12 to 14). Older kids were less likely than younger kids to say that they:

  •     get along very well with their parent (16% vs. 31%)
  •     have fun with their parent (76% vs. 90%)
  •     share good news with a parent (86% vs. 93%)
  •     feel comfortable going to a parent with a problem (38% vs. 57%)

“It’s perfectly normal and healthy for kids to begin to separate from their parents and become more independent as they grow older,” says Dr. Lyness. “But the quality of the relationship doesn’t have to decline when that separation begins. Parents and kids can certainly have a strong, positive relationship that lasts through developmental changes.”

For parents who want to protect the quality of their relationship with their kids, KidsHealth.org offers these tips:

1. Believe in your kids and expect good things from them. Encourage their strengths and praise their efforts when they work hard. Support them when they feel like giving up.

2. Give praise for true accomplishments. Praise builds kids up, but it works best when it’s specific and deserved. Broaden your view of what warrants praise. Applaud your child for working hard, making progress, and sticking to difficult tasks.

3. Be there for your kids in good times and bad. You know that you’re supposed to be there for kids in tough times, but also encourage them to tell you when good things happen. Share your happy moments with them, too.    

4. Argue less and find better ways to talk over disagreements. How can you set firm, clear limits and expectations—but do it without anger, lectures, threats, ultimatums, or an authoritarian approach? Step one is to try not to yell. Yelling is not an effective discipline strategy. Step two is to accept that more conflict is likely as kids get older. (You are trying to hold them accountable and encourage them to be responsible. Meanwhile, they are looking for more freedom and independence.) Step three is to find common ground, when possible. It’s natural to focus on what you want and expect. You’re the parent, after all. But try to let kids know you understand what they want and need, too.

5. Have fun together. As kids get older, they spend less time with parents and more time with friends and participating in activities. That’s normal and healthy. But look for ways to stay connected by having a good time together. Have your kids outgrown the activities you once shared? Find new ways to enjoy shared time. Take a walk, see a movie, play a sport, cook together, build things or do crafts. Shared activities also allow kids a chance to bring up problems and concerns.

The survey was conducted online from October 9, 2015, to December 9, 2015, among 8,390 children, ages 8 to 14, and 908 parents. For full survey results, please contact Ryan Biliski at biliski(at)KidsHealth(dot)org.

About TIME For Kids
With 20 years of classroom experience, TIME For Kids is a trusted leader in education resources for teachers, students, and parents. TIME For Kids delivers authentic content that covers a wide range of real-world topics through nonfiction text and multimedia tools that align with the Common Core State Standards. A powerful teaching tool, TIME For Kids builds reading and writing skills and is easily integrated across many curriculums, including English language arts, social studies and science, creating lifelong readers and informed citizens. TIME For Kids is a division of TIME Inc. For more information, visit timeforkids.com.

About KidsHealth.org
KidsHealth.org is the Number 1 site devoted to children’s health and development in English and Spanish. On a typical weekday, approximately one million parents, kids, and teens turn to KidsHealth.org for expert answers, making it the Web’s most-accessed site on children’s health. KidsHealth.org has been honored as one of the 30 Best Websites by U.S. News & World Report, one of the 50 Coolest Websites by TIME magazine, and the Best Family Health Site “For Moms” by Good Housekeeping. KidsHealth.org also creates KidsHealth in the Classroom, a free website for educators featuring standards-based health curricula, activities, and handouts. KidsHealth.org comes from Nemours, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit pediatric health systems and a founding member of the Partnership for a Healthier America, a partner to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign that mobilizes the nation to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. For more information about KidsHealth.org, please visit KidsHealth.org.

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Liz Gossens
Communications Strategy Group
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