My Child Won't Talk to Me: The Family Feelings Journal

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My Child Won't Talk to Me

In speaking with thousands of families through the years, I’ve learned that one of the challenges parents have is getting their child to talk about how they are feeling. Indeed, it is what lands families in my office on many occasions. I hear, 

“My child won’t share what he is feeling. He just won't talk to me. I’m often left guessing about what’s going on.”

We know parenting is a huge job.  We are busy keeping track of every aspect of our children's lives: health and dental appointments, vision check-ups, homework planners, sports schedules and more. We get so caught up in the daily grind, sometimes we miss out on one crucial aspect that contributes to our child’s well-being and success: Managing Feelings.

Kids need to be able to identify feelings in themselves and others, they need to know how to process and manage those feelings and they also need to know how to deal with conflict in relationships.  When they know what triggers certain feelings, they learn powerful concepts that will strengthen their mental health, relationships, and confidence across the lifespan. It’s a fundamental aspect that contributes to success in all areas of our children’s lives. This is so important, in fact, there are entire agencies whose sole purpose is to research and identify how we can better promote social-emotional growth in our children and in ourselves.

If you struggle with getting your kids to open up, 
consider starting...

A Family Feelings Journal

It’s true…sometimes kids are hesitant to share how they are feeling, or what thoughts are bubbling below the surface. One of the best antidotes I have for this is to start a Family Feelings Journal.
I have suggested this to many families through the years, and still do so. I feel so strongly about it, I urge parents to do this when they are going through a divorce. I give specific instructions for divorce situations in Playful Ways to Help Kids Cope with Divorce.

Here’s a simplified way to start your Family Feelings Journal:

1.      Obtain a journal. Grab a blank journal to use. A spiral notebook is totally fine. Invite your kids to decorate the outside of the journal, if they’d like.

2.      Put it in a prominent place. You’ll want to put the journal where everyone has easy access to it. You may wish to leave it on your kitchen counter or a desk that everyone uses.

3.      Keep a supply of writing tools at the ready. You’ll want to have a variety of writing implements at the ready. I suggest pens and pencils, but that you also have colored pencils, markers and crayons. I have found that teens and even parents will use all of the above, so don’t think crayons and markers are just for the “littles”. Sometimes, a big scrawl of red across a page says A LOT! (Reference our graphic for this post!)

4. Pick a Consistent Time to Review It. Now that your kids have a place to share the feelings that are difficult to verbalize, be sure to review it all with them at a consistent time (maybe after dinner? Pick a time that works for your family). 

5. Help Kids Cope. Offer empathy, support and guidance. Here's where things really start to make a difference. Now that your child has shared the feeling, be sure to offer empathy, support and guidance. It's great to ask your child how he thinks he could manage a BIG feeling, so he can learn to problem-solve on his own. When feelings are overwhelming and a child is feeling stuck, he really counts on your to be the calm, steady voice of reason. Ask your child if you can offer suggestions, then ask which one he think might work best for him.

Sometimes, your child may not wish to talk about what he has shared at all, and that is A-ok! In those instances, just say, 

"Thanks for sharing! Those are some hard feelings to have. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it." 

Be consistent in encouraging your child to write in the Family Feelings Journal and be sure to do so yourself. The more we practice something, the better we get at it. Dealing with feelings is no different!

More Support - extra resources for "those moments"!

1. I have trouble managing my own emotions when my child is out of control.

If you struggle with staying calm and offering empathic, thoughtful responses to a highly emotional child, you are not alone. BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids (instant download version) can really help! It's used by thousands of parents and educators to help change behavior more quickly and effectively than other approaches offer. 

2. I want to help my child deal with anger better, but I don't know what to do or say that can help!

We hear you! If you haven't yet, why not sign up for our Anger Toolbox for Kids? It's FREE and you'll get a 45 minute MP3 download, along with some printables! Find it all HERE!

3. I need tips, ideas and printables I can start using right now to help my child, classroom or clients!

Done! We provided thousands of parents, teachers and clinicians worldwide with exactly the right resource at exactly the right time with our printable support materials. You can find them all HERE, or look below if you need something specific. 

{If you've never used our resources before, here's how they work: You purchase the item you'd like and it is delivered immediately as an instant download. You are free to print as many copies as you personally need to use with your own children, classroom or practice. Each item is licensed to one individual. If you need to use in a group practice, or wish to use with a group of teachers, please contact us for more information. We appreciate your integrity.}

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How do you get your kids to open up?

Tell us in the comments below, 
or come share on our Facebook page!

Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is  the founder of Kidlutions and co-author of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids. She is the creator of numerous workbooks and resources to help from the preschool through the teen years. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Facebook! She'd love to see your smiling face there!


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