Have you thought, “My child seems quieter than normal”? The stereotype about teenagers is that they are always reserved and moody. However, if you’ve found that your child is just as quiet in the Louisville Zoo as they are in a Kroger, then you might need to take notice of their behavior. Knowing when to worry about your teenager might seem challenging, but there is no wrong answer regarding your child’s well-being. You can be proactive and follow these tips for 10 ways to get your child to open up.
1. Be Patient
We’ve all been children before — it can feel complicated. Don’t rush your child to express themself in front of you or pressure them to speak to you. Allow time for your child to come to you. They are likely dealing with many new and complex emotions and situations and need time to process everything. Being patient doesn’t mean you can never approach them — just be delicate with your child and give it time before you become concerned.
2. Go Outside
Getting outdoors can be an excellent way to get your child to open up. Bring them to a local park for the day — like Shawnee or Cherokee park — or go on a walk in your neighborhood. Nature helps improve both physical and mental health. Immersive experiences in the outdoors improve mental, physical and social health in adolescents.
3. Spend Time Listening
When your child speaks to you, try to listen to them genuinely. Even if they’re asking for you to pass them something at the dinner table, you should view it as an opportunity — show them that you value their voice. Listen to what they have to say and what they might mean when they say it.
Demonstrate that you’re an active listener. Nod your head, make relevant faces and make eye contact. This will show your child that you value what they have to say. It might make them more likely to speak to you more often.
4. Have Them Talk to Someone
Sometimes your child just needs to express their emotions to someone else. If they don’t feel comfortable confiding in their parents or friends, it might be time to bring up therapy. Your child is probably figuring out complex emotions, so they might need a professional that understands them. A therapist will guide you and your child in learning how to understand each other.
5. Ask Questions
You can try to kickstart communication with your child by asking them questions. Be gentle and normalize this behavior with them. Ask them questions that have lengthy answers. Instead of asking them if their day went well, ask them about what they did in a specific class or sport.
6. Pay Attention
Pay attention to your child. They may not open up verbally, but they are communicating with you non-verbally. Are they sleeping through the whole night? Do they finish their food? Are their shoulders always slumped? Their behaviors and body language can help you to understand what they need — if you look closely you’ll understand how to get them to talk to you.
7. Give Them Space
You might ask yourself, “Why is my teenager always in their room?” Your child’s tendency to be alone might be how they cope. How you treat your child when they’re young affects them later on in their adolescence. If your child is distant, it might be because they’re processing some of their early life experiences. They likely might be craving a closer relationship with you, but they need to know your relationship with them is secure. Give them space to process and be supportive.
8. Find a Shared Interest
You can do many activities in the Louisville area that will interest you and your child. Finding a common interest creates a reason for you and your child to talk to each other. Try taking weekly tours on a Riverboat or take them on trips to one of the many iconic museums in the area. Engaging with your child can encourage them that they can trust you and express themselves in front of you.
9. Model Behavior
Your child will feel more comfortable opening up if you begin to do the same. Keep in mind that you should only open up to your child about age-appropriate things. Telling them about your hobbies or starting a small conversation about your day signals to them that they can be more comfortable doing the same.
10. Reward Them for Opening Up
Your child must know it is safe and okay for them to open up to you. Let them know they are welcome to talk openly to you by rewarding them. When they speak to you about something serious or embarrassing you should try to encourage that behavior.
More conversations like that will create a stronger bond between you and your child. React gently and with support — let them know that you appreciate their openness. If they are upset about something and confide in you, you could even try cheering them up by taking them out for a treat or for some one-on-one time.
Children Are Complex
Your child is growing into a unique and independent individual. There will be times when they are distant from you and times when they cling to you. It is always best to be proactive about your child’s mental health. Finding shared interests and actively listening to your child will help you strengthen your relationship, even if they are completely fine. They also might just need some time to themself or some advice from a therapist.
Even if you aren’t directly involved in getting them to open up to you, it is good that you are making an effort to help your child. Whether your child opens up or not, you will always be their parent.