How to get your child to share their problems with you?
Do you notice difficulty in getting your child to share their problems with you? Whether it is a problem or question or dilemma your child is experiencing, do you wish your child will be open and share with you?
The truth is, many of us sometimes forget that the way we respond to our child in our daily interactions actually pave the future as to whether our child trust us enough to come to us for advise, consultation, or a chat about their problems. If we tend to be generally dismissing, or disapproving of their emotions and responses, it is less likely our child will trust us to be able to show empathy and non-judgmental. Isn’t this what we all look for when we confide in our spouse or friends?
Creating a safe space, building that trust and rapport with our child is necessary. Just because we are parents does not mean we automatically earn our child’s trust for them to talk to us about their problems or dilemma.
My son’s dilemma
My son, who is 9 years old, recently came to me about his dilemma situation with his friend in school. So, it turned out his friend had been giving “tips” to friends who purchase food or drinks on his behalf during recess. And, my son thought it was a great way for him to earn some side income. Truth is, he is also puzzled with his friend’s behaviour (why would someone give away his money this easily?), and he didn’t feel quite right about taking the money.
So, he came to me one day and made me promise that I would not “scold” him or tell anyone after he tells me his “secret”. He shared about his friend’s behavior and asked me about my opinion about it and whether it is “wrong” to accept the tip. At that point, he shared little about his own behavior (the fact that he did accept the tip!). After I shared with him my views and my values, he just kept acknowledged and moved on with his daily activity.
It was only a week later that he came to me again, and finally revealed that he had been accepting the tips from this friend. Long story short, it took us a while before we came to terms of what value is important to us here and he decided to return the money to his friend. And I thanked him for sharing his “secret” with me.
The Hard Way…
Trust me, as parent, it wasn’t easy for me to not probe more questions when my son first came to me ..or not to impose what I expect him to do. Not to mention it will probably be less time consuming if I had just told him on first occasion the action to take.
But I took the hard way as I want to understand what is going on in my child’s mind. I want my child to be open and share his problems with me. I want to use this experience as a way to connect and bond with him while teaching him the right values and behaviors.
Of course, we may not always be able to use this method and there will be times where we have to be the disciplinarian immediately. Below are 3 guiding principles I generally ascertain:
- There is no immediate harm to self and others arising from his action or behavior
- My child’s behavior is not breaching any laws or rules
- There is time (i.e. no urgency in solving the problem right there and then)
5 Tips if you want your child to share their problems with you
If you want to be your child’s friend and share their inner world, and still be their emotion coach…then it is important to keep these 5 tips in mind…
- Pace with your child where they are in their world…be empathic and put yourself in their shoes. If you attempt to lead without pacing, it is not likely to work.
- Share your perspectives and how it links back to the family value you wish to impart with your child. This not only teaches them what’s important about the value, and also helps to develop their thinking process
- Allow them to share their perspectives and hold back the urge to dismiss or disapprove their views or ideas
- Where problem solve is needed, give your child opportunity to come up with solutions. Guide them to choose their solution and allow them to bear with the consequence if their solution does not work out.
- Where there is misbehavior, discipline the child while letting the child know the misbehavior that is inappropriate and the consequence for the misbehavior. Do not label the behavior as identity e.g. you are naughty so you will be punished.
Remember, if we are patient and take the child’s experience as emotional connection and bonding with them, our child will open up and share with us about their world, their challenges and problems. And, we can then use these opportunities to teach them life skills that are going to last them a life time.