Getting your Child to Open Up

Getting your Chile to Open Up - Article

I have two daughters. One of them likes to tell me everything, the other one is very quiet. It can be very difficult to get much out of the younger one especially when I want to find out what she’s been up to at school.

I’m sure a lot of you will understand what I’m talking about. You ask, “How was your day today darling?” and the response is, “It was good”. Now you want to find out more but you just don’t know how to get that information out of them.

My oldest will more or less tell me everything that went on at school that day. I absolutely love how she can’t wait to tell me everything regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

She’ll tell me about all the ‘fights’ she’s had with her friends, any test results, things that her teacher might have said and anything else she feels she wants to tell me.

My youngest however, is more reserved and she’s pretty much a closed book most of the time. Myself and her dad have been working hard to try to find ways of getting her to open up but it’s not always so easy.

I guess this is something we’ve had to get used to and really give her the opportunity to open up in her own time. That doesn’t mean we can’t help her along the way.

I have to ask myself what is it that I really want to know about her day?

As a parent, we just want to know that our kids are happy at school and that they would feel comfortable enough to know that they could tell us if something was bothering them and about all the things that are making them happy too.

My youngest would sometimes tell me about her tests and sometimes she wouldn’t. Sometimes she would purely have forgotten that she had a test simply because it is almost an everyday occurrence.

Other times she said she didn’t want to tell me because the results were not very good and she didn’t want to disappoint me. I began to wonder whether she was holding back about her days at school and her experiences because she thinks I have certain expectations and she didn’t want to disappoint.

This made me feel quite sad. As long as my children did their best and worked hard and had lots of fun, are  building relationships, learning how to interact well with others and gaining confidence in themselves I have no reason to be  disappointed.

When my oldest was younger, she would come home and , even while in the car,  be bursting to tell me about her day. I’d hear all sorts, stories about events in the playground, which lessons she found interesting and which lessons were putting her to sleep!

I welcomed  this and I tried never to be disappointed in anything that she told me. I wanted to be able to maintain open communication with her and up until today she remains this way.

I had thought that perhaps my youngest would see how I reacted to her sister and feel comfortable about talking to me about anything. I soon realised that both my children are very different to each other.

The oldest is confident and comfortable in her own skin. My youngest however,  is quietly confident and is selective about the information she shares with me.

The great news is, she’s opening up more as she gets older. I guess the only problem is, sometimes she will be telling me something that has happened at school, and when I asked her whether that happened today , she would tell me that she either can’t remember or that it was about a week ago!

I guess I’m just happy that she’s talking to me and I make sure that I give her the time and attention she needs.

I have thought long and hard as to why perhaps my youngest is a little bit of a closed book, and I’m sure many of you will be able to relate to this.

We are all, including us parents, quite obsessed with our mobile phones. I know I’m guilty of it and I have seen plenty of other parents do this too. In fact, I recall being told off by my children for doing this.

Yes! It’s that dreaded mobile phone that we like to hold in our hands and stare at the screens while our children are trying to talk to us. It’s disgusting, I know. But I also know we are guilty of it. Hands up if that’s you! Don’t be shy…

I use my phone quite a lot for business. Social media is a big part of the work I do. So it only makes sense to use my phone to do it. However, as a consequence I didn’t realise how much it was actually affecting my children.

They would be calling out, “Mum, mum, mum!” but I wouldn’t even hear them. I was too engrossed in what I was doing on my phone. And if I did hear them, I’d still be looking at my screen expecting them to talk to me and I’m not even looking at them.

I feel quite embarrassed to even share this. But I guess if I don’t, I’m not really being honest. I have made a conscious decision that once my  kids get home from school, I would not be working on my phone or using my phone or even picking it up for more than few seconds and if they wanted to speak to me, they would get 100% of my attention!

I mean, what example was I setting my children? I wouldn’t expect them to treat me that way. I know I would be telling them off if they did that to me. I’d be demanding that they look at me when I speak to them. So why should we as parents not expect them to expect the same from us?

I also had a think about the questions I was asking when I’m able to pick my kids up from school. First question would be, “How was your day?” – Now that’s a very open question.

If we turn the tables and think about how we would answer that question, we too would probably respond with, “It was good”. I had to change my questioning techniques. What did I really want to know and how would I be able to find out?

I also thought about what it must be like for my youngest to be picked up from school and have her sister do all the talking. Sometimes her sister would tell me about the things she saw my youngest doing at school. I really wanted to hear it from her myself.

But I also realised that my eldest did a lot of the talking and didn’t really leave much room for her sister to say much. In fact sometimes she would have to raise her voice to be heard and then we’d be getting angry because she’s shouting.

I get it though, I really do. I suppose growing up I was the quiet one. I was a middle child which meant that I never really got heard. Now I know I only have two children, but the oldest is far more talkative and has plenty to say.

Because I do not want to discourage this, I let her speak. But I have come to realise that I had to make changes so that my youngest had the space and time to shine too.

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Here are my tips that I found really helpful and would like to share with you.

The key is to be able to find out what your child has been doing at school without it feeling like an interrogation:

Think about your questioning techniques.

Open questions are harder for your child to answer because they’re just not specific enough. Some of the most important parts of the day are not even spent in class.

They tend to be the times that your child spends at lunchtime and break times. This is really the time that they have to fend for themselves. I will tend to ask my child questions such as:

  • What was your favourite part of the day?
  • What did you do today that you didn’t enjoy?
  • Who did you help today?
  • How was lunch?

If you know your child then you can ask more specific questions. I would make it a habit to ask about lunchtime because I knew that my daughter sometimes had issues with friends. Instead of asking directly about the problems, asking about lunchtime opens  up the opportunity for her to tell me if there were any problems.

When my children get home, they change out of their school uniform and like to get a snack. This is also a great time to have a conversation. I tend to talk about my day too. When I tell them about the things I do, it reminds them about events during their day.

If you are able to talk to them, they will feel more comfortable talking to you. I will tell them about things that have made me sad, things that have made me angry, things I have enjoyed and how much I have missed them.

The time you have with them is so precious.

I remember working full-time and having to pick them up from after-school club. My time with them was so restricted. There was barely any time to do anything and it was a case of get home, dinner, any reading, shower and bed.

I am definitely one of the more fortunate parents, who is able to be here when my children get home from school. Therefore that time is for them.

They miss me as much as I miss them. I have definitely noticed a change in my youngest daughter once she realised that I’m here for her. I’m dedicating time to her. She has the opportunity to talk to me about whatever she wants to talk about. Most of the time she just wants to cuddle! And I love it.

Put that mobile phone down!

I have learnt the hard way and to be honest my kids really embarrassed me. I don’t like being embarrassed especially in front of my children.

The fact that they have had to tell me to put my phone down is a little humiliating. I should be the one setting the example and I’m so glad that I have made that change. They know that they have my full attention and they don’t have to share it with an app on my phone.

Know that the mobile phone will always be there but if it gets in the way and stops your child opening up with you, your child may just close themselves off completely.

It’s really important how we react to the things our children tell us.

My husband has told me countless times that I can be a little tactless. Now he’s a grown man, so he can handle it!

But my children shouldn’t have to. Sometimes I overreact to things, and I guess that’s just human nature. But our children sometimes worry about our reactions and that’s why they don’t want to tell us things.

My oldest daughter puts a lot of pressure on herself and often gets upset if she doesn’t get 100% in her test results. There’s nothing wrong with having high expectations.

She is pleased to tell me when she gets a good score, she also tells me when she hasn’t had a very good score; but reluctantly. I always tell her that if she’s done her best I’m happy. And she knows that too. My youngest is getting there too!

I remember recently she had a times tables test. She hadn’t revised for it and wasn’t expecting it. In my opinion she scored well. But according to her,  she could have done better.

And I get that because that was me as a child, I hated failing at anything. I didn’t tell my parents because I was just too disappointed in myself.

My youngest has learnt now that if she doesn’t score 100%, we work together as a family to make sure she improves. And she knows that the improvement isn’t just for future tests. It’s for her, so that she feels good about herself.

Parenting is definitely not easy. We learn as we go along. I hope that these tips and my experiences can help you to get your child to open up more.

If you’ve got some tips that work, I’d love to hear them. Anything is worth a try.

I guess the biggest lesson for me here, is that all children are individuals.  They are all different, they react differently to each other, and that they  truly look up to us and want to make us proud.

As long as my children know I am proud of them …..that’s all that matters to me.

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