Most parents, probably all parents, at some point in their child’s life realize that their child simply doesn’t open up anymore. This may tend to happen a lot during the teenage years and it’s often chalked up to hormones acting up. For all we know, it could just be the hormones or it could be a whole slew of reasons that the kid who couldn’t wait to tell you how his day was might now not say a word even while being pressed about it.
There are a few tricks to get them to open up, none of them are guaranteed to work, and the success of each depends on your efforts. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying though, so here they are:
1) Ask open-ended specific questions about their day.
If your kid couldn’t wait to share his day with you earlier (that’s a sign of a really good relationship) but now doesn’t reveal any information, give them some space. Every once in a while drop an open-ended question about something specific in their day. Try “How is the new kid in class coping?”, “Are any of your teachers particularly mean?” and so forth. Try avoiding a direct question and let them start speaking about themselves when they’re ready.
2) Get them to open up through indirect conversations.
Indirect conversations are also great ways to find out about your child’s life, conversations that take place in the car or when you’ll are in a dark room, basically conversations in moments where you’ll aren’t speaking face to face. These conversations can be a lot less intimidating when compared to speaking while facing each other. If this works for you try to encourage these situations. Maybe pull up a couple of chairs to the backyard, stare at the stars and talk about your lives like old friends.
3) Don’t assume your children are looking for advice.
When your kids speak to you about a problem they’re facing, they’re not always asking you for a solution or for advice, they might simply be looking for someone to rant to. Just like you come home hoping to tell someone how bad your day was or how stupid your neighbor is. You don’t want to hear that your neighbor, in fact, isn’t stupid and holds multiple PhDs. You just want someone to support you and say mean things about your neighbor. What a surprise, your kids are basically just tiny versions of you. Listen to them and if need be, add on to the little rant, little Suzy does indeed have split ends and should bother fixing those instead of tripping your child every chance she gets. You get the idea.
4) Be present.
Another important thing to remember is to always be present for your child when they need someone to speak to. You may very well be an extremely important person or you might just be very self-involved. Whatever the situation, you only get a few chances before your children decide they’re not as important as your tasks. When they start a story or ask you a question, place whatever you’re doing on hold and be there for them. Listen to their questions and pass on your wisdom. However, if they don’t agree with you, never lose your temper. Provided your advice is sound they will eventually realize your solutions are gold and will keep coming back for more advice. But lose your temper a couple of times and they’ll do everything they can to do the opposite of whatever you said. Kids are pretty stubborn that way.
5) Create a routine for sharing.
If you’ve got a few kids or a large family that lives under the same roof, try starting a routine “safe time” activity. Every week go for a walk or play a sport or go shopping. Do this with each of your kids and make sure that it’s always just the two of you. You might be surprised at how talkative your child is when there aren’t other people around.
6) Don’t be overeager.
Don’t be overly eager to find out what’s happening in your kid’s life. If you ask your child multiple times every day to tell you what’s happening with them, they begin to feel like they have power over you as long as they keep from sharing. In the simplest terms, you’re handing them leverage that they didn’t even realize they had. They can’t trade this leverage for anything but it makes them feel as though they have power over you.
7) Always be listening (not eavesdropping).
Remember to always pay attention to what your child says. Children don’t always seek help, they should, but they don’t. So pay attention to your child’s words, are they suddenly more aggressive or perhaps they’re melancholy. If something seems unusual, be there to comfort them and they should open up by themselves about whatever is bothering them. Being reassured that they’re safe and loved might be just what they need.
8) Maintain the trust.
In the end, this entire system works on the basis of trust. I don’t mean trust in general because obviously, your children trust you: You feed them, love them and protect them. I mean trust that you will never lose your temper or shame them because of something they reveal to you, no matter what. A sense of trust like this is gradually earned and can be easily lost so remember to always keep your cool when you’re being handed new information about their life. You might just overreact to something that doesn’t even really matter and end up losing their trust. Keeping your cool is extremely important to building a no secrets relationship with your child.