This really depends on the ages of your children but generally taking time to listen to our children and showing we are truly interested in the details of their lives encourages them to talk to us when they really do have a problem.
Also, tell them a little bit about the problems we face and solve every day. Then we make it normal to talk about some of our problems and how we manage them. This can help them to talk more openly about their problems and they can also learn from the way that we solve our own problems.
Children often like to talk at bed time, while they are playing a game or driving alone in a car with us. So it’s good to have one-to-one time with our children and to be sensitive to their need to talk. Better to let them talk and stay up half the night than to let them struggle alone. Those late-night conversations can be so rich and helpful.
When they do share their problems with us, it’s important to be understanding and to comfort their sadness and distress. They need parents who take their problems seriously, who understand that children can’t always solve their own problems and that their feelings might be overwhelming at times. So listen calmly and respectfully, point out what they did well and comfort their distress by helping them to calm down. Do something caring, fun and soothing to help them settle.
Once they feel calmer, help them to explore possible solutions. What do other children do? Have they ever seen or read anything that might be helpful? Or, if they are older, what ideas might they find on the internet? You might even tell some stories about how you faced similar problems when you were young.
The more we support children with their smaller problems when they are young, the more likely they will come to us with bigger problems when they are older.
Finally, they need to grow up knowing there is nothing they can do that will ever stop us loving them. We can let them know that whatever problem they have and however serious or difficult it is, we will always love them and be there for them to listen, to care for them and to support them. Even if the whole world walks out on them, we will always stand by them. Then they know it is safe to come and talk to us about any problem in their life.
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