For some of us, talking happens easily and for others, talking can be difficult and many of us are somewhere in between. Have you noticed how hard it can be to get your child to talk about their feelings? Even the most outgoing youngster can become shy about their inner world. Being able to express complex thoughts and feelings is important for all kids and particularly sensitive, anxious and highly active kids. Here are some tips:
- Create time to talk daily. I have one parent who does this with her daughter every night for 20 minutes and they call it “face to face” time. It started out with silly games and has evolved into a time when her daughter shares the stresses of her school day
- Create a cozy space such as a fort or cave; this creates intimacy and a sense of safety
- Include a snack and or something to drink; the act of eating and drinking forces the body to calm and regulate
- Start with general questions; talk about one thing that happened today to ‘celebrate’ and one thing that was ‘tricky’; this terminology avoids the “good/bad” association
- One parent shared with me a fabulous dinner game called “Food for Talk”; a box of cards with different topics to discuss at dinner
- If a child is feeling shy with a face to face situation, draw out things that happened today on a large piece of paper or white board; this is less intense and will entice your child to draw with you, engaging them through their motor skill
- Set time aside to talk every day, not just when things aren’t going well.
- Listen and avoid taking over; paraphrase back and empathize with your child’s feeling (even if you don’t agree)
- Share when you had a similar situation /feeling; your kids will love to hear when you were feeling scared, unsure and worried
- avoid scolding or ‘teaching a lesson’; instead, you can initiate some shared problem solving together with global questions “hmm, that’s tricky, I wonder how that could go differently next time”
- Take a deep breath, slow down your pace and be fully attentive during this face-to-face time. It is precious time with your child.
By Kiegan Blake, O.T.
(This article was originally published in Maui Family Magazine)