You know how to speak with your kid – you talk all the time about school homework, soccer games, and their favorite spaghetti dinner. But how come when your son or daughter comes home from school looking sad, you become speechless? Your eyes open up big and you take a few deep breaths wondering: What in the world do I do now?
Such questions beat on the heart and mind of every interested parent. But be easy on yourself, your parents likely didn’t speak to you about your emotions, what to do when you were sad and how to let-go of such negative feelings. In other words, you are parenting in a completely new way focused primarily on raising happier kids now. (Older generations were more focused upon raising kids that behaved, got good grades and eventually got a “good job.”)
Here are 5 suggestions to help you get your kids talking about what’s going on in their life – especially when they are blue.
Ask Directly: Create a space between you and your child that is honest, respectful and sincere as you both learn your roles. With such a space, you can directly ask your child: Is something wrong? Because he or she doesn’t need to always please you, be perfect and put on an “act” as the smart, skilled or likeable kid. The bottom-line is that your child feels safe, unconditionally loved and supported from you so they can safely share good things and their challenges.
Give them Space: Your son or daughter may or may not want to “talk about it” due to their personality, temperament and situation. As a highly effective parent, you need to give your child the space to process his or her emotions by themselves. Every child is learning what emotions are (identification), what to do with them (regulation) and how to do it (approach) so during this process of feeling deep emotions – many boys and girls need to sit with an emotion like sadness, and then with your assistance (when they are ready) learn to let it go (talk about it). But giving a child the space and allowing them the time they need to feel strong enough or comfortable enough to talk about it is very respectful.
Show Empathy: Sometimes it is easier to talk about something if you share a situation from your life where you felt sad. Empathize with your son or daughter, and then tell them truthfully how talking about it helped.
For example, I remember feeling stinky when my braces were put on in second grade. They hurt and looked all shiny while no one else in my class had braces. I was the first one! Ugh. But as I talked to my Mom, she helped me see how 1 year would fly by and how great my teeth would look. I then drew a picture of myself without braces, with straight teeth and hung it up on my wall.
So talking about and focusing on the positive side really helped me. Then after you share your story, I suggest asking your son or daughter: Do you want to talk about it? Often, they’ll say yes at this point but if they say no – just take it as a sign they need more “alone time” before they are ready.