Just as adults are trying to understand these uncertain times, kids and teens are also trying to grasp the events that are going on around them. From the global coronavirus pandemic to protests all over the world about the equal treatment of others, it might seem easier to ignore these issues, but it’s important to have an open line of communication when kids and teens are having difficulties understanding.
Although getting your kids to open up and talk to you can feel like a challenge, here are a few tips from the American Psychological Association to start a conversation with your kids about what is going on in their lives.
1. Make them feel safe: You want to put kids and teens at ease so they feel comfortable talking to you. It is essential to make it clear why you are talking with them. Kids especially are fearful that they may be in trouble or are being punished if they are pulled aside to talk. Reassure them that this is not the case that you are there to offer support. Parents might consider scheduling a time to talk one-on-one on a regular basis, such as having lunch with your kid or teen weekly or biweekly.
2. Listen to them: Take the time to actively listen to what your kid or teen has to say. Many times, all kids or teens want is someone who will listen to them. Try to understand their perspective before offering suggestions. Sometimes your own anxiety can prompt you to try to fix everything. But in many cases the best help you can offer is to listen attentively.
3. Affirm and support their need for help: If a kid or teen tells you they’re feeling sad or upset, for example, tell them you’re proud of them for sharing their feelings. Let them know you appreciate the courage it took for them to talk with you and for trusting you to help them. If your kid seems to need more help than you can provide, consult with an appropriate professional.
4. Be genuine: Try to avoid speaking from a script. Teens can tell when you’re not being genuine. If you are open, authentic and relaxed, it will help them to be the same.
5. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’: As a parent, it is OK to admit that you don’t have all the answers. However, if a kid or teen asks you something, you should make every effort to find an answer or someone who can help.