Are the days of your chatty little child long gone? Do you feel like you need to interrogate them to find out how their day was? It is common for most children to become more reserved as they get older. To them, a lot is going on, and it can be hard for them to process it all resulting in a more quiet child. Their priorities also tend to shift—building new relationships with friends becomes more important than the existing relationships with their parents. It can be hard to get them to open up and talk to you, but it isn’t impossible. The most important thing to remember is that as long as you have time for them, they will talk to you if they need to.
How to Get Your Child to Open Up
It sounds obvious, but it is important. Listen to what they have to say without interjecting. Hold onto your advice and words of wisdom. Most kids do not verbalise their feelings quickly so it can take time for them to get it all out. Let them know you are listening by nodding your head. Help the conversation flow with sentences like “that must’ve difficult” and “that would have been so annoying”. Be patient, supportive, and accept that what they are feeling is valid to them no matter how small it may seem to you.
Once your child has finished talking, it may be time to share that advice you’ve been holding onto. The way to approach this is by asking them what they think they might do about their situation. This opens the topic up for discussion and stops it from feeling like a lecture. Offer advice in a way which builds upon what they said—work with them. It is of note that just because your child is talking to you about a problem doesn’t mean they want your advice; sometimes they just need to vent. It can be confusing to know what you should do; the most important thing is that you actively listen to them, this lets them know you are there for them and supportive of their problems.
2. Indirect works best
Based on enormous amounts of personal accounts the verdict is indirect works best. Situations where there is limited eye contact, such as; in the car, playing a board game, or walking side by side, see a higher success rate of children opening up. When the focus is not on them, they feel more comfortable and in turn more ready to talk. Another good place is when you tuck them into bed. When it is bedtime, children often do what they can to stay up later than allowed. Why not make use of this and listen to them talk?
Avoid asking direct questions. Get them to tell you the information rather than asking for it. For example, if your child tells you that they are sad because of what their friend did, say “I wonder what they could have done to upset you so much?” instead of “what did they do?”. The phrase “I wonder…” is helpful when approaching questions indirectly. Other ways to do this include changing sentences such as “what is good/bad about it?” to “what is the best/worst part about it?”. It is a subtle change that moves the question from sounding accusatory and needing justification to one that is asking for an opinion.
3. Give them space
Don’t be pushy. After their day, give them some space and time to let them relax and settle themselves. Similar to when you come home from work, it is nice to have some time to unwind without people in your space asking you a bunch of questions. Offering unwanted help can irritate your child making them less likely to open up. Think of when someone has given you unwanted advice and all you wanted was some space to think things over—highly annoying! Giving your child space and letting them know you are there for them can be all it takes to get them to talk to you. Children have a habit of talking when they are ready to—there’s no need to rush them.
Parenting isn’t easy, and there is no one correct approach to it. Unfortunately, children don’t come with instruction manuals and the pressure that comes with trying to do the right thing can cause a lot of stress. The good news is that there is a wealth of knowledge out there to help you along your parenting journey. The Glow While You Grow Course is a fantastic resource which can help answer all those uncertainties that come along with parenting. The course will help guide through all the challenging periods of childhood while allowing you to strengthen the bond between you and your child.
Every child is different, and not all approaches will work, but if you are making an effort, then you are supportive. Open and honest dialogue can strengthen a relationship. Patience is key, and remember just because your child is more focused on building new relationships does not mean that your relationship with them is not important.
Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.
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