When a child stops talking to his parents it can be an emotional struggle on the parents. It often feels like the child doesn’t trust or want help from his parents. This can be both frustrating and very worrisome for parents. So why do kids stop talking and communicating to those they used to look up to and rely on in their lives? Why is it so difficult for a child to see that parents have their best intentions in mind, and just want to help? These are good questions that have plagued good parents for many years.
When a child is struggling to talk it often represents something very specific to the child. Teenagers specifically are well known to not communicate directly, yet they may use many non-verbal communication styles. In working with children Attachment Communication Training (ACT) can be quite useful. The concept uses four steps in engaging with your child. First, share this can be powerful to children to hear their parents talk about how they are feeling. Make sure to be brief and concise, but honest in your sharing. Be observant to your own body language and tone of voice when sharing. Second, listen it’s important to be non-judgmental when doing this. Again gauge your nonverbal communication and be sure to have an empathy attitude (putting yourself in their shoes) when talking with your child. Third, re-state summarizing what they are telling you. This helps the child feel like they are being heard and strengthens your ability to listen to them more intentionally. Finally, feedback makes sure that the child expressing themselves in verbal communication gets a chance to tell their parents how listened to how they felt. This shows the child that you value their opinion and make them a priority in listening to them and not just talking to them.
In working to have communication with a child it’s important to praise success. When you observe even the beginnings of the communication you want from child affirm this in them. Encouraging this behavior is not done through gifts or material possession, but is most effective through verbal and non-verbal approval in words and expression. As we build our children up in both praise and affirmation, they learn to respond to us better and become more comfortable in their communication with us. Keep your intentions of getting your child to talk at the core of your communication interactions, and not having your child hear your thoughts on their choices.
By Grant Anderson, M.A.
Grant holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Trinity International University and has been counseling adolescents and families for nearly five years. Grant works with students at Caribbean Mountain Academy in the Dominican Republic, addressing therapeutic issues, such as attachment disorders, substance abuse, anger issues, and behavioral problems. He also has experience with adults and families, dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.