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Helping Kids who Struggle with Opening Up

Updated: Feb 12

When you know something is wrong…

It might feel worrisome for parents to try talking to their kids, to keep coming up against one-word answers. What happened for your child to feel the need to pull away? It may be developmental, if your kid is at a stage (ahem,teenagers) when they value peer connections over family. This is a growing pain that can also be painful for the parents and caregivers. Keep in mind that no matter how much you try to maintain open communication in your family, your kids may feel more comfortable going to anyone but you about questions, problems, and concerns. As hard as it might be to swallow, it is not about you… and in fact, it is healthy and natural. It means that they are exploring their independence.

Make yourself available

Letting your kid know that you are available and open-minded is a good starting point to helping them open up. Keep in mind that this is not something that you want to push… that is the quickest way to get them not wanting to open up to you. However, if they do want to talk, they might need some encouragement; it could also help to give them opportunities to reach out. They may not feel ready or able to open up about something face-to-face. To help this situation, I’ve seen families who have a jar with issues that they want to talk about with the family – or with someone specific in the family. The person with the issue can write a note and put it in the jar, letting the others know that it is there.

Bedtime might be another opportunity to connect with your child, and let them know that you are available and open to listening to them. What kinds of bedtime routines do you have? Can you work a sharing time into it?

If they cannot talk to you, but it seems that they need someone to talk to, let them know that they can try calling Kids Help Phone (only available in Canada) at 1-800-668-6868, or find them on live chat at

Keep the lines of communication open

Following are some questions to help keep the lines of communication open. They are meaningful questions that can help to give more than one-word responses. Hopefully, they can generate some discussion, or at least a good laugh with your kid – key to building supportive relationships.

  • What was your favourite thing about today?

  • What was the worst thing that happened today?

  • Tell me about something funny that happened recently.

  • What is something that you would like to remember about this time in your life?

  • Which media personalities do you respect?

  • What are some of your favourite qualities about other people?

  • How do you think your friends see you?

  • What would your grandparents say are your best qualities?

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