Here’s a familiar scenario: While trying to meet up with an old friend, you track her mother on Facebook and learn she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in years. “A rift,” she calls it. What went wrong? Many parents worry about this sad scenario. However, there are effective ways to connect with your child now to avoid losing them later.

According to a 2016 study, 24 percent of adult children between the ages of 25 and 32 are estranged from one or both parents. This translates to 7.9 million disconnected families. To change these statistics, it’s vital to connect with your child early and maintain that connection into adulthood.

How to Connect with Your Child Now to Avoid Disconnecting Later

Older teens and young adults tend to distance themselves from parents when establishing independence only to reconnect again in their mid-20s. But, increasingly these estrangements can cross over to long-term or even permanent rifts. Fortunately, here are four strategies to connect with your child now to help ensure closeness later:

  1. Slow the Participation Trophies

It’s hard to stay connected to anyone, let alone parents, without learning lessons in empathy. According to life coach Sherri McGregor’s book, Done With Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, risk-reducing or the “everyone wins approach” may interfere with a child’s ability to empathize.

It can even make it hard to connect with others later in life. And this includes parents. Yes, sometimes it’s fine if everyone wins a ribbon, but a sprinkling of healthy competition, humility and empathy are also important.

  1. Schedule to Stay Connected

Let’s face it, some days you do little more than pass your child in the hallway or give them a ride to the soccer game. Simply put, you might feel you’ve connected with your child, but the routine and bustle of daily life can mimic a true connection. So, make time for family. Schedule a bi-weekly family dinner or event. Set a time to have fun and connect with your child.

  1. Handle Family Problems Gracefully

Whether it’s divorce or another mishap in the family, don’t speak ill of someone who is important to your child, especially the other parent. This will backfire in adulthood or in hindsight. A university study found that pitting a child against another parent is one of the leading causes of parental estrangement in adulthood.

Remember, there are ways to discuss the other parent without slandering your former spouse. It’s important to answer questions but withhold judgment when talking to your child. Be reassuring and make sure your child knows that the absence is not their fault.

  1. Anticipate Change and Go with the Flow

There will be times when your child pulls away and you must make allowances. The key is reasonable autonomy. Allow them their privacy and room to explore, but don’t ignore the warning signs of depression. The danger signs include withdrawal from friends and activities, giving away treasured items and poor personal hygiene.

Healthy autonomy, on the other hand, means testing the waters alone and discovering oneself. But, be prepared since their moods will fluctuate. Just allow this rite of teenage passage and be patient.

When you truly connect with your child, the bond is forever, even on days when it doesn’t feel that way. With a dose of patience and by nurturing your relationship it will be back to good. So, use these tips to connect with your child now to a avoid disconnection later.