4. Allow them to express feelings and fears. Instead of "Don't be ridiculous, of course you don't have an imaginary friend and I am not setting a place for them at dinner." Say "Sometimes we all wish we had someone who would listen to us, play what we want to play, do what we want to do and never be unkind to us. You can pretend for a while, but maybe you would like to share some of your worries with me. I can help you to figure out some solutions."
5. Avoid threats and unenforceable punishments. Don't say "If you are late one more time, you will be grounded for the rest of your natural life." But rather, "Before you go with your friends, let's make sure we agree that curfew is ten o'clock on school nights. We are also clear that the consequences for being late are to lose weekend privileges. That is what we agreed on, so I want to make sure we both understand."
More from YourTango: Your Bad Body Image & Your Kids: A Dangerous Combination
Sometimes the idea of connecting and communicating with our children seems almost overwhelming. We are competing with video games, friends, hormones and a hundred other things that take their attention. 2 Types Of Parents: Which One Are You?
As a parent educator as well as parent, grandparent and an auntie, I can assure you that the time spent will be worth it. If you can see that your child has something on his mind but is nervous about sharing, I have found it effective to do a chore or take a ride so that you are shoulder to shoulder, rather than eye to eye.
More from YourTango: Parent Advice: 5 Ways To End Teen's Behavior Problems
I have confidence in your ability to build strong ties of communication and connection with your kids. If you need help, be sure to sign up for the free eBook at http://www.askauntieartichoke.com.