How to Be A Parent Your Child Wants to Talk To
If a child is not opening up when they are upset, the relationship may not be as close as it needs to be.
The most common complaint that we hear from parents is, “he just won’t talk to me.” It’s difficult to feel strangled by your own child and it has consequences for the child. Research indicates that the closeness of the bond between parent and child is the most significant indicator of the emotional and psychological wellbeing of a child. If a child doesn’t open up when they get upset, the relationship may not be as close as it should be.
There are two habits that parents routinely engage in that shutdown communication and drive a child away: negating feelings and mistaking sympathy for empathy.
When a child is really in distress because they feel hurt, upset, worried, or frustrated, their parent is desperately needed. However, parents often do not want their children to feel bad, so their first reaction is to tell their children not to feel the way they do. Declarations such as “don’t be sad” or “don’t be crazy” escape before they know. It causes the child to feel ashamed of the way they feel, compounding the pain. In fact, the awareness that their parent doesn’t understand leaves them feeling alone, which is negative. The child learns, ultimately, that opening up on how they feel makes them feel worse.
Statements to avoid:
- Don’t worry.
- Don’t feel that way.
- Don’t be disappointed.
- Don’t be like that.
- Don’t be mad.
- You are too sensitive.
EXAMPLES OF SUCH EMPATHY ARE:
- That’s a big worry. I get it.
- You are upset. I would be too.
- You have every right to feel disappointed. I felt like that when I was your age.
- You are mad. I understand. You have every right.
- It hurts to see someone do something you want to be able to do, but can’t yet.
- You are mad. I’m sure you have a good reason. I want to hear about it.
Here’s how it works. Empathy creates a good Vagal tone in a child’s brain and soothes them instantly. You settle down after the empathy and can think logically about problems with you. You always feel respected and connected to you, which helps them to take a sense of security forward.
Neither one wants a child that feels sorry for himself, plays the victim, or is overdramatic, and maybe that’s the anxiety that prevents a parent from being empathetic, but acknowledging the feelings of their child is also what prevents a child from having a sense of superiority or a victim mentality. On the other hand, anger disrupts the likelihood of emotional attunement and tempts parents to accept it. Instead of helping them work through difficult feelings, the parent saves and rescues their child from negative feelings.
Empathizing is one better idea. Honor the feeling. Emotions are never wrong; it’s what children do with emotions that can lead them to get into trouble. misunderstanding he got into with a friend.
After you give them a solid dose of empathy, the child feels understood and connected to you, which means they immediately feel better, and will want your help in problem-solving. In many cases, empathy is all they need to feel better. Simply knowing their parents understand, allows them to feel secure and forge ahead.
However, just because you’re sensitive to how your child feels, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re indulging in bad behavior. My friend, for example, came up angry at the door last week. He slammed the door, then put down his hat. I said, “You’re so crazy. I don’t know why, but there’s probably a very good explanation for you and I want to hear about it, so you can’t throw your hat. Go pick it up. “He came to me right after picking up his jacket and told me he was frustrated by the misunderstanding he got into with a friend