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How to get you kids to open up!

By Cadida
YOUNGSTERS are bottling up their anxieties especially on drugs, alcohol, relationships, bullying… “Many children find it very hard to talk to their parents, particularly as they become teenagers”, says Eileen Hayes, a parenting adviser, “but in an ideal world, every child could turn to his or her parent for support. With a little help from you, your children will be more open about their fears.” Here is how she advises you encourage them:

Don’t try to force answers out of them, if you ask a direct question and don’t get an  answer, just say: “No problem. But remember I’ll be here if you decide to tell me.”
Ask questions: Try to keep in touch with what’s going on in your teenager’s life. If you know that your daughter’s favourite sport is netball, you will know that something’s wrong without even asking if she stops going to after-school practices.

Approach boys and girls differently: Girls will respond better to a sit down, eye-to-eye chat – they like to have your full attention. But many boys find this approach a bit off-putting and would much rather have a ‘side-ways’ chat.

For example, when driving them to football practice or the gym, casually drop in the subject you’re feeling concerned about: “So,  how’s the maths going, then?”  or “you haven’t mentioned Lucy in a while.

How is she?”  “Boys can be harder to reach as many of them still feel that a ‘real man’ shouldn’t ask for help. Make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with needing support.

Using listening skills: Don’t interrupt or jump in too quickly before you have heard the full story. Feed important points back to them and ask questions to make it clear that you are paying attention to them. For example: “ So, you told him to leave you alone? And then what happened?”

When your child has told you something that needs to be taken further, be careful. If it’s something as bad as child abuse, you will have to tell them that you must act. If the problem is less serious, listen to the child. Often, they will want you to stay calm rather than act.

You might want to storm down to the school and confront the headmistress about the matter, but your child may disagree. Don’t be upset if your child talks to someone else.

They may decide to discuss things with their teacher or another adult they respect. It’s normal to fee! hurt when you find out, but don’t be angry, if s a good sign. Your child is becoming independent and is trying to find his or her own solutions. Remember that everyone is different.

Some kids are secretive by nature and some tell you everything. But you know your own child best, if he or she is behaving out of character, be concerned. Watch for signs of depression, such as locking themselves away for hours and refusing to say why. And be alert to other small signs – children often give clues in throwaway remarks like ‘I wish I was dead.’


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