Aleteia

How to get your child to “open up” and talk to you

Mother, Child, Girl, Secret, Problem, Confidence
© fizkes | Shutterstock
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Sometimes our children conceal what is going on inside.. Here’s how to encourage them to confide in us.

Why do we want our children to confide in us? So we can help them, advise them, console them, and share in their joys and sorrows. Sometimes kids don’t want to open up to their parents, and even when they’re young they might not want to tell us everything, but as they get older, this usually becomes more common. If we want them to open up, they need to be sure that we will respect their privacy. Even if they have allowed us a glimpse of it, let us not try to force our way inside. 

You can’t earn their trust simply when it’s convenient for you

You need to spend a lot of time with your children and be there at the right moment. Building an intimate relationship when you spend time together is vital. In some families, parents regularly take one of their children and spend time with him or her (to eat out, see a movie, go shopping …). These occasions are invaluable for exchange and establishment of trust. They cannot emerge when the whole family gathers around the table at mealtime.

Another thing that encourages trust is the ability to really listen. But it’s not enough – you have to also know how to keep secrets. A secret is a secret, even if it doesn’t bear an official seal, even if it’s been entrusted to you by a 3- or 4-year-old child. An exception could be made for sharing it with your spouse, unless you were expressly asked not to share it with anyone. 

“As a parent, you cannot say anything without provoking their ire!”

Rightly or wrongly, some young people feel that they’re judged in advance. For example, Sarah would like to go on a trip with her friends, but her parents think she’s too young: “No point in discussing it, it’s a no!” they say. Their decision is irrevocable and has been dictated by concern for her well-being. But it’s too bad that Sarah’s parents didn’t use this occasion to really talk to her. She has grown up, changed, and feels that her parents haven’t noticed any of that. What she really needs besides their approval is to be heard.

So let us make the effort to listen to our children before criticizing or objecting to their requests. Many wonderful things could result from this kind of heart-to-heart discussion.

Christine Ponsard