How to Get Kids to Talk

“The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.” 

~O. A. Battista

Have you ever wished that your child would open up more  to you? Like really open up to you? The highs, the lows, friends, school, drama, life, goals, problems, choices…all of it. You are not alone. This is a common struggle amongst parents. The good news is that there are things you can start doing today that will encourage your child to share their life with you. 

Awhile ago I saw an amazing meme; it said something along the lines of, “How will your future teenager know he/she can come to you about bullying or substance abuse or suicidal thoughts if you will not even listen to them now as toddlers when they want to show you what they have colored?” It was a major aha! moment for me because of the punch this concept packs. So naturally, working backwards, if you want your children to come to you with important life issues, you have to prove to them NOW that they have your attention (and ears). Here are three ways you can do this:

  1. LISTEN.  Listen, listen, listen! I am sure it can be annoying to heed every time a child says, “MOM, LOOK!” because of the frequency at which children tend to say that. Children tend to want to show and tell just about everything. They are delighted to show off their coloring, their new friend at the park, tell you about a movie they watched, a book they read, something they saw out the car window, something they heard someone say…essentially everything. This is a huge compliment: Your children want to share their world with YOU. They want you to acknowledge their reality or their hard work, they want your praise, your attention…they want YOU! So listen. Listen to what they have to say. It goes such a long way!
  2. GIVE THEM YOUR ATTENTION. This tip goes hand-in-hand with number one, but it is a step beyond. You have likely mastered the art of “listening” while multi-tasking and cooking, cleaning, or watching TV.  When your child wants to talk or show you something, as often as is humanly possible, give them your full attention. Put your phone down, pause the song, stop chopping vegetables, and give your child your undivided attention. YES it may mean that dinner is late, or the song gets reshuffled, or you lose your place on your social media feed, but  what could be more important than sending this message to your child:You matter. I value what you have to say. I am listening to anything you want to tell me. What is important to you is important to me. Think about how this translates into teenage tongue–when your teenager wants to talk to you about something serious, they will not question whether their parent is available. Do the same thing now and you will be building a solid foundation upon which you can further build upon during those teenage and young adult years .
  3. CONNECT. Collin Kartchner taught that 8 second hugs, 8 times a day increases oxytocin and happiness levels in children. What a simple yet powerful way to connect with your child(ren) and really solidify the fact that you love them and are (and always will be) there for them! In between your eight hugs a day, try dating your child: Once a month (or once a quarter or whatever works for you), take your kid out for an activity with you one-on-one. Get creative and watch–you will see that your closeness increases the more quality time you spend together! You can also connect throughout the day by sincerely asking your child how he/she is doing, sending a text or calling just to check in. Show them that you are thinking of them. Whatever method you choose to connect, show your child you are trying to keep the doors of communication open. Wide open! This is something they will remember when they need you (and even when they do not)!

I am sure it does not sound like much, but these three simple, accessible suggestions will help you start and continue to strengthen your relationship with your child. If you feel overwhelmed with parenting now and into the future, remember that listening, removing distractions, and connecting on your child’s level are symbolic; as you do these things, you are demonstrating to your children that they come first in your life, that you are always there for them, and that you are their advocate through thick and thin.  As you do these things, you will be planting seeds in a garden that will someday be a fruitful relationship where your child feels safe and comfortable and able to come to, confide in, and rely upon you. That is a beautiful thing. It is well within your reach! Good luck!

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.

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Tags: Children, child, therapy, therapist, psychology, listening, talking, 8 second hug, hug, connection, listen, listening, honesty, relationships, mother, father, parent, parents, communication, future, seeds, garden, trust, hope, openness, trust, respect, parenting, kids, counseling, counselor, Melissa Cluff, Cluff Counseling

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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.