No matter your age, talking about how you feel can sometimes be a challenge. However, if you would like to have more open communication in your family, and especially with your children, it is essential to talk about the deeper stuff in life, and that means feelings, too. If you struggle to get your children to open up to you, here are a few critical things that might help your child to talk to you more about how they are feeling.
How Available Are You?
Do you make yourself available regularly to your child or do you fill your day, and maybe your child’s day as well, with busy activity that doesn’t allow the time and space to create more relaxed and private moments where real and deeper communication can occur? Make time every day where you are available to your children. Be willing to put down what you are doing and get down to your child’s level when they have questions for you or would like to talk about something. Show them that you are available to them when they need you.
Are Your Children Afraid?
Do your children feel safe opening up and expressing how they really feel to you? The answer to this question is most often highly dependent upon the type of reactions you have had in the past to their deep and honest sharing. Have you ever told your child not to feel a certain way or do you interrupt them instead of listening to what they are trying to tell you? If you have shut your child down in past communications, one of the first steps in getting them to be more open about feelings with you is likely to acknowledge and apologise for your past poor communication with them. Express to your child your desire that they would feel safe speaking to you about anything and that you want to be able to listen to them and be there for them if there is anything they need to say.
Are You Listening or Solving?
Your child needs a parent who will listen. As a parent, it is easy to get caught up in the desire to solve any and all problems you perceive your child may have. This is not what the child needs, and it is most often not what they are wanting from you either. When you are focused on solving your child’s problems you take away the opportunities they have to learn and grow and you compromise your ability to simply listen and hear what your child has to say. Children are very perceptive and they can usually tell if you’re really listening to them or not. If they perceive that you are regularly not listening to them they may eventually learn to simply stop sharing things with you, including how they truly feel.
Remember, You Are the Model
For most children, their parents or other prominent caretakers in their lives, such as child care workers, are the model of the behaviours they choose to adopt. Sometimes, a child may not express feelings very openly with you because you have not modelled that behaviour to them. Besides talking about your feelings in an authentic way with your child, you may also want to consider some additional resources such as children’s books and family-oriented movies that can help your child learn to be more open and expressive of feelings. A good family counsellor can also be a good resource, especially if your child has undergone some trauma, known or unknown, that seems to be affecting his or her ability to open up.