Out of touch with your child?

Dec 14, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. ET

Your kids may be your pride and joy but that doesn’t mean they are just like you. In fact, a lot of parents struggle to find anything in common with their children.

How do you find common ground so that you and your children can be close?

As a parent, relating to your child can be a struggle, especially during the tween and teen years. Some call it a rite of passage, others call it growing up. Whatever label you adopt, kids will go through a stage of self-discovery which usually doesn’t include celebrating commonalities with their parents.

That’s life

Even if you once shared hobbies or interests with your child, at some point, it’s natural for her to pull away a bit. "As children become independent and ‘individuate’ from their parents, they begin to spread their wings, find their own voice, their own interests and their own experiences," says Dr. Philip Dembo, life coach, relationship expert and author of the book The Real Purpose of Parenting: The Book You Wish Your Parents Read. "It doesn't seem to matter what generation we are talking about, this ‘individuation’ is developmentally necessary and creates real sadness and worry for the parent who fears losing touch with their child." This time of discovery can leave a parent feeling disconnected from a child but that’s not necessarily the case.

Find out: How much independence should a teenager have? >>

How do you connect?

While it can be difficult to watch a child pull away, parents don’t have to feel isolated in the process. A little adjustment to your perspective can change the experience from potentially painful to oddly liberating. Perhaps redefining what it means to connect can alleviate some of the angst that often accompanies young adulthood. "We have to make sure we are clear with what defines ‘in common’ or ‘compatible’ between the parent and the child," says Dr. Dembo. At a certain point, connecting goes beyond being Facebook friends or enjoying the same type of music. Turns out, being a parent — rather than trying to be a peer or a friend — is the best way to ensure a genuine relationship.

Are you a BFF parent? >>

The truth of the matter

If you and your child don’t have a ton in common when it comes to hobbies, music and interests, the fact that you are family trumps all. Even if you are polar opposites in personality and temperament, the two of you have a deep understanding of your family culture and a connection that is far more significant than any hobby or passing fad. "Parents must hold onto the belief that we are deeply compatible with our children when we don't attempt to be topically connected but rather emotionally connected through our commitment to one another, our respect for one another, and our reliance on one another to embrace the culture of our family identity," says Dr. Dembo.

Read about 7 creative family bonding ideas >>

Solid perspective

When you feel disconnected from your child or struggle to find common ground, Dr. Dembo offers the following insights to help parents gain valuable perspective:

  • Remember, you don't have to dress like your kid, or enjoy the same movies or music as she does to feel close to her.

  • Embrace your child for who she is and develop with her a Family Culture where she can feel safe to be herself as well as honor you for who you are.

  • With a relationship founded in respect, communication and love, there will never be the feeling that you have nothing in common.

  • When you appreciate what you have in common, you can understand and honor your differences.

Read more about raising tweens and teens

Connecting with your kids: Strategies for tough conversations
How connection parenting makes child rearing easier
7 Books to read aloud with your teen or tween