Sometimes, prying information from your child is like trying to open a can without a can opener. It just can’t be done. Before you pull your hair out, learn how to get your child to come to you and talk when they need a listening ear. As kids grow older they seem to talk to their parents less and less. Why is this the case? Often, as parents, we stop talking or listening to them. It is easy to get caught up in what is going on in our own lives; like doing chores and worrying about dinner and then we forget about our children and their needs in this department.
This doesn't mean that parents are neglecting their kids. We satisfy the needs for food, clothing and shelter, but what about communication? No man is an island, as the adage goes, and that includes children as well. They have a need to be heard just like their parents.
Your child may need to talk about something right now but you aren’t noticing it. Begin again today and do what you can to get your child to open up.
Six Ways to Get Your Child to Open Up
1. Give them time to talk: Time is of the essence to parents. If you ask your child something, you want an answer right away. But, when kids can’t open up right away, don’t pressure them. Let them get their thoughts together first and then ask them again. I know this first hand due to my oldest having Asperger's (CJ) and not being able to think on the fly. He needs time to think and get his thoughts in order before he says anything. My youngest (AM) on the other hand, just says the first thing that pops into his mind.
2. Show respect to them: Kids are people and they deserve your respect as much as any other person. Give them their privacy in their room; (maybe even giving them a journal or notebook to write their thoughts down) listen to them when they talk; don’t discredit what they have to say just because they are children.
3. Talk about you: Kids often think that parents can’t relate to what they are going through. Prove them wrong by relating stories of your childhood to them. Even if it is difficult, let your child know that you understand. Fun part is telling them some things that you did when you were younger/their age and tell them how your parents handled it. My boys think it's funny, especially when they try to be sneaky and I caught them and their mouths drop; like how did you know. Umm I was your age once, I know a couple of tricks.
4. Listen to them: Don’t form your next speech. Instead, give them all your attention. Acknowledge what they say with a nod or an occasional affirming sound. A doctor once told me that children stop listening after five words, so if you need to tell them something or get a point across it needs to be less than five words. Just think how we react when listening to a speech, what's the first thing you think of? I know I think "This is going to be so boring", then during the speech we are trying to stay awake and focus. Well that's how kids are; when we are talking to them for long periods of time they are going to fade in and out of the "speech".
5. Treat each child as a different person: The worst thing for kids is to feel that they are being compared unfavorably to their siblings. My two boys are the complete opposite. So I have learned that I need to differentiate between the two. AM is a fast talker and thinker, whereas CJ is a slow thinker and a slow talker, especially when he's trying to get something out. Give each person their own due and attention. Praise them for their attributes. This is a big one!
6. Value their opinion: Listen to their thoughts and consider them. Discuss family matters as a group and use their input. Kids like to be involved in decision-making, now I'm not saying let me decide on financial matters or whether to stay together or not. I mean ask them what they would like for dinner, ask their input on what movies they would like to see. Include them in, you know "family" decisions.
Children want to open up to their parents. What they may fear is that they will be rejected for who they are or what they feel. Let them know that they don’t have to be afraid to talk to you about even the toughest subjects.
Comment below with any suggestions that you can think of.