If you have an angry, emotional, or closed-off kid on your hands, it can be tough to communicate. Not only can it be hard to get your child to tell you how they’re feeling, but chances are that you’re frustrated as well.
The important thing to remember is that it can be a challenge for children to sort through their emotions. You can’t take it personally when your child fails to communicate with you because communication is a learned skill, and their level of development can make things even more complicated.
Know that children mimic the adults in their lives, so your child will follow your example over time. Showing strong communication skills even during tough times will help set a precedent for effective communication in the future.
When speaking to your child, you want to appeal to them specifically, as a particular audience, just like you would using the Helixa audience segmentation process. If you’re trying to break through to your child, try some of the following tips:
It’s essential your child feels heard when communicating with you. This means you should turn toward them and give them your undivided attention. Make eye contact when possible and use reassuring gestures to let them know they’re safe talking to you no matter what.
Don’t create a pause in the conversation by asking closed-off questions. Questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” won’t help keep your lines of communication open.
Instead, try to extend the conversation by asking questions that require an explanation, and encourage your child to share details or stories to get them talking.
Body language and other signs can be powerful indicators of how your child is feeling. Even more, they can show when your child is ready to open up or when they’re ready to end the conversation.
If your little one starts staring off into space or acting silly, they’re likely done talking for the moment. Pick up the exchange again when they’re more focused and ready to share.
The ability to empathize is one of the top characteristics of an effective listener. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes and understand the situation from their perspective. You can also name their feelings to let them know you’re hearing them and understand where they’re coming from.
Try something like “It sounds like you’re angry with your friend Chris” to reassure your child you understand the situation. They’ll appreciate your attention and be more likely to continue sharing.
It’s important not to shame your child for how they’re feeling, no matter what emotion it is. Not showing enough empathy and understanding means your child will be less likely to open up to you in the future.
However, sometimes strong emotions can come along with damaging actions. Discipline is important to show the consequences of your child’s actions, but don’t shame them for their feelings along the way.