What to Do When Your Child Won't Talk to You

Open and honest communication with a trusted adult on a regular basis is a key factor in child development. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services compiled a list of recent studies that verify some of the long-term benefits. Adolescents who receive open, validating, and respectful verbal guidance from a parent or mentor are far less likely to use drugs, engage in risky sexual activity, or find themselves in an abusive relationship.

However, talking isn’t always easy. As bodies evolve from child to biological adult, potent hormonal changes can make your child seem like a stranger. Social problems, developmental delays, and a range of other factors also impact your kid’s ability and willingness to share their inner secrets.

It is possible to restore the flow of healthy communication between you and your intentionally closed-off kid. These tips can help you begin the process of repairing the broken lines of communication in your family.

Use Your Empathetic Skills

Empathy is the ability to see things from another person’s perspective. This simple skill makes a big difference in the quality of your communications. Apply these techniques to encourage your child to open up.

  • Avoid using your parental authority to demand the truth. Similarly, attempts to manipulate or trick them into exposing information would only further widen the communication gap.
  • Validate their thoughts and emotions. You don’t have to agree with someone to empathize effectively.
  • Good listening skills are the backbone of honest empathetic interactions. Make a conscious effort to improve your ability to hear what your child is saying.

Empathy is a habit. Practice seeing things from your child’s point-of-view to help them feel safe coming to you with big problems.

Make Talk Time Fun Again

The average American family spends roughly 37 minutes each day engaging with each other. Invest more bonding time to build trust and restore the flow of communication.

  • Rearrange your routine to allow two five-minute periods every day where you can chat with your child. Stick to small talk, subjects of mutual interest, and other noninflammatory subjects.
  • Charades, cards, and board games are fun ways to stimulate casual yet affectionate conversation that reduces anxiety and builds trust.
  • Use text messages, IM, and other methods of electronic information to stay in touch throughout the day. A few friendly text messages each day can go a long way.

Don’t restrict conversation to necessity and problem-solving. Build a more holistic relationship with your child to safeguard productive communication.

When Talking Isn’t Enough

The transition to adulthood is a difficult and multi-layered journey. From developing character quirks to the remnants of old-fashioned childhood silliness, there are untold influences on your child’s thinking and behavior. When a maturing child shuts down, your genuine and affectionate attention is often all you need to quickly resolve the issue.

It is important to note, however, that there are times when your child simply isn’t in control. Neurological conditions like autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, and ADHD affect certain brain functions, sometimes forcing them to do things involuntarily. Many symptoms of these conditions aren’t noticeable until puberty. If your best attempts at positive and supportive communications don’t yield the results you seek, talk to your primary care physician or family counselor about screenings.

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Want to restore the lines of broken communication with your child? Talking with an intentionally closed-off kid isn’t easy — get some tips to help with our resource!