As parents, it’s completely normal to want to know what happened to your child. Whether your child just came home from kindergarten or college, it’s parental instinct to find out what’s going on in their lives. But if you’ve ever received one word non-replies, or your child wasn’t a talker to begin with, then how can you get your child to open up to you? Today, we’re sharing some tips that might help you! Check them out below!
When you talk to your non-talkative child, timing is everything. Try to gauge your child’s mood before you talk to him or her. Is he or she happy? Already sharing some tidbits with you? Take advantage of this happy mood, and grab the opportunity to ask a few questions about his or her day. But if he or she is moody and sulking, you might want to wait until your child is in a better mood. Also think about where you’re talking to your child. A car full of other people? At the dinner table? If sharing to a big group of people (even if they are siblings) makes your child uncomfortable, opt for a one-on-one in your child’s room instead.
One way you can tell if the timing is right is be paying attention to your child’s behavior and body language. If you’re going home from school, and your child is balled up by the car door, his brows are drawn, and he keeps sighing, then you might want to hold off on some conversation. Look for some clues as to how your child’s day went in the way he or she acts and holds him or herself, and use those clues as signals to start a conversation.
Take a look at the questions you’re asking your child, and go for questions that require your child to reply with more than just a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. For example, instead of “Did you have a fun time in school today?” you can go with “How was school today?” or even better, go for something more specific, “What did you do in your Science class today?” Besides this, try to make sure that the questions you ask are also non-judgmental. Consider changing your ‘Whys’ to ‘Whats’ as questions that start with ‘Why’ usually have an underlying accusatory tone, like, “Why did you do that?”
It might not seem like a big deal to some, but a few word changes can actually change the tone of a sentence completely. For example, instead of saying, “Why did you do that?”, changing your wording to something like, “Can you tell me more about your decision?” makes a big difference. Here’s another example: Let’s say your child enters the car and says she fought with her best friend, and that she won’t ever talk to her best friend again. Instead of saying, “What did she do to you?” try this out, “Wow, you seem really angry. I wonder what she did to you.” Pair that with a long pause after you say it, and your child won’t be able to resist answering!
Sometimes, you can be a bit too carried away because of all the curiosity and excitement you feel for their child. You want to find out everything that happened, so you ask question after question after question, not knowing that your child is being overwhelmed with all the questions. What do you do? Be patient, and don’t rush. And if your child’s not responsive, don’t try to make assumptions. We know it can be really difficult to be patient and not push your child to talk to you, but at the end of the day, when your child is ready to talk, he or she will come to you.
Once your child starts talking, your main job is to listen. Don’t be afraid of the silences in your conversation. Let them happen, and use them as a time to reflect on what your child is telling you. Empathize with your child. Nod, make understanding noises, or hold his or her hand to show that you understand what he or she is telling you. Another thing you have to do is keep your emotions in check. Don’t overreact or cry out as this may affect what your child thinks, and discourage him or her to share some more.
Ahhh, this one is tough. It’s so easy to give advice to your kids. You practically do it everyday, right? But just because your child talks to you, doesn’t mean that he or she is automatically asking you for advice. Unless your child specifically asks you what he or she should do, try to hold your tongue (or bite it if you have to!) when you feel the need to give some advice to your child. Another thing you can do instead of giving advice, is helping your child figure out solutions to his or her problems. This will teach your child how to think for him or herself, and be comfortable in making decisions.
Talking doesn’t necessarily have to mean a face to face encounter. If your child is a little bit older, try texting. Some kids may be intimidated by close eye contact, so they may prefer a few texts. Or when your child invites some friends over, pay attention to what they’re talking about. Some kids may need to warm up before talking, so instead of jumping straight to it, and asking some questions, try some activities like drawing or a playing a guessing game to get your child in the mood.
You’ll be surprised at how doing something you both like will actually help your child open up to you. If you and your son both like playing sports, have a sports day, and insert a few questions while playing. If you and your daughter both like arts and crafts, carve out some time to have an arts and crafts session with her, and squeeze in a few questions. Your child will not only feel good knowing that you’re sharing something together, but will also feel less intimidated as he or she would if you chose to talk to him or her directly.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you want to talk to your child is your presence. The thought that mom or dad is available whenever he or she feels like talking, or even if he or she wants company, will give your child the notion that he or she can come to you whenever he or she wants, with whatever he or she has to say. Being present in your child’s life, and keeping yourself (both physically and mentally) available to him or her will help your child trust you, and ultimately, share a piece of their everyday lives with you.