It breaks my heart when one of my children is upset about something and doesn’t want to tell me about it. That’s only happened a few times, but I fear it will happen more the older they get. Thankfully they are talkers (imagine that!) so I usually get the scoop from them with out much effort. But when it really matters, I hope we’ll be able to keep those lines of communication open. Not much is worse than your child getting in the car looking like they’ve been crying, or trying not to. Then you ask what’s wrong and they say “Nothing.” Well, it’s obviously not nothing and the more you try to find out what it is, the more they refuse to tell you! I’m no expert, and I’m sure once we are well into the teen years, I’ll have to revisit this post. But here are a few things I’ve picked up on so far to keep in mind in those situations.
- Don’t push too hard. If there’s anything that makes a person shut down, and not want to talk, it’s someone pushing and smothering them. “Well, you need to tell me what’s wrong.” “What did they say? You can tell me.” “Who? Who upset you? Where are they?!” These things usually do not help. I’ve said these things during an actual conversation, and that’s fine. But when you don’t know the story and you’re begging them to tell it to you, these questions are usually not helpful, and annoying. As hard as it is, if they are asking for some space, it’s usually best to give it to them for a bit.
- Wait for a better time to talk about it. Remember, there’s a good chance that whatever is bothering your child is embarrassing to them. Yes you are Mom, but they can still be embarrassed to tell you about some things. So it’s a good idea to hold off. That way some of the sting can die down, and you can talk to them in private, when no one else will hear.
- Offer to pray with/for them. Ask them if they’d like for you to pray with them. Prayer is conversation, so often listening to you converse with the Lord about their struggles, will encourage them to talk about it too. If they don’t want to tell you what’s going on, you can pray in general for them. And if they don’t want to pray together you can say “I’m going to say a prayer for you, what can I pray about?” They might just say “That I will know what to do.” Or something vague. Or they might continue to shut you out and say “Nothing.” But I think knowing that you are praying for them still means a lot to them even if they don’t say it.
- Be ok with them confiding in another trusted adult. Now this does not go for everyone. Don’t just say “As long as they are talking to someone, it’s ok with me.” Unfortunately you can’t trust every adult you know with influencing your child’s thought process. But, it’s good to have one or two other like minded, honest adults that they can talk to. I know you hate to think that your child would ever not want to share with you. But, sometimes they need someone other than Mom to talk to. Sometimes Dad is better. But often times a trusted aunt/uncle or grandparent is preferable. My kids have a very close relationship with my sister. Not only does she know my kids just about as well as I do, but she’s more patient than I am! If they need to talk, and prefer it be with my sister, I’m totally ok with that. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your child’s well being! And if one of them were to talk to her and it be something they ask that I not know, it would be hard on me, but I could accept it. Because I know she wouldn’t keep anything from me that I really needed to know. (Like drugs, alcohol, a serious bully problem, etc.) Not only do I trust her to tell me anything that I need to know, but I also trust her not give my child fuel for rebellion or to mistrust me. (It’s better they not talk to someone who will say things like “Your parents are being so unfair.” Or “Well that teacher shouldn’t be bossing you, she’s an idiot.”)
- Let them know that you are on their side. If they aren’t wanting to talk and you can’t crack them, make sure you leave them with the right words swimming around in their mind. Rather than “Fine, if you don’t want to talk, I give up! Figure it out on your own, and we’ll see how that goes for ya!” maybe something like “Ok, if you really don’t want to talk right now, I can respect that. But the problem probably won’t just go away, so when you do need to talk, I’m here. Whatever it is, I love you and nothing’s going to change that”
- Don’t let your imagination get the best of you! Most the time when this happens it’s because the other girls wouldn’t sit with her at lunch. Or the boys didn’t pass him the ball in gym class. Things that made them feel really bad, and embarrassed. Things that do have a real effect on them, but will pass. When your child is huffy and is obviously dealing with something, don’t get too crazy in your head about it. Most of the time they will tell you about it later on, and get passed it. And most of the time it’s not that they are pregnant or decided to try smoking in the bathroom. Don’t borrow trouble! Wait until you know just how serious it is, to start having anxiety!
- Be willing to be there if it really is really real. If it is something that’s for reals, like they really are pregnant, or did do something very wrong. If someone hurt them on a deeper level, or any of the unthinkable things did happen… Make it serious to you. Don’t just ignore it and try to reason and make light of it. I’m pretty sure it would be easy for a parent to go into some sort of denial. So make sure to be willing to get them the help they need. Be it counseling, rehab, medical treatment, or whatever. This one could be it’s own post, so the short version is, remember that we already committed to #5 on this list, so stick to it. Once something has happened, you can’t change it. So help them to at least move forward. No matter how the situation effects you, it’s about them and you have to see it that way and be there for them.
One thing we have to accept as parents is that hard times will come. It won’t always be the happy, close relationship that we hope for. There will be set backs, and real life issues. The key I think, is to handle it the best way we can, and keep on keepin on!
Smile through the trials