My oldest daughter, Ruth (age 11) and I spent girl time together. We shopped and ate and talked. I wanted the same experience with my middle child, Carolyn (age 10). Getting Carolyn to open up and talk was tougher.
“So, Carolyn,” I began, “how is school?” “Fine,” Carolyn said. We paused conversation and took a sip of soda. I tried again: “How’s everything going with your friends?” “Good,” Carolyn said. Sip, sip. Then Carolyn asked me a question: “Can we go home now?”
Getting kids to talk is not always easy. But, I need to keep trying. Kids are soaking in attitudes and reactions of the people around them and making decisions about life.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but the man of understanding draws it out.”
I was sure that my children would come to me with struggles. But, anytime a child experiences something hurtful and especially if the child has gone through abuse, they learn to protect themselves. Responding with denial, withdrawal, approval-seeking, turning off their feelings, acting out or self-blame is common. Being open – is not.
How do I ‘draw out’ those thoughts? Psalm 20:5 says it takes understanding. It’s not a quick cookie-cutter process. Each child has their own personality and interprets the exact same situation….different. Talking moments don’t happen because I’ve scheduled it. They just pop up as we’re driving, watching a movie or cleaning the kitchen. If my ‘To Do List’ takes higher priority, and the pace of my day is somewhere between rush and rush faster, the thoughts of my children and grandchildren are going to be just another interruption in my busy day.
Give permission, with words, attitude and reactions, to talk about anything. Invite them to ask questions. Let them know it’s okay to tell me where I have failed them. Ouch…..I know! But being open to this can let healing happen.
We’ve started a ‘Meal Question’. During dinner, someone gets to ask a question. It can be a fun question or a serious question. Then, we take turns answering and listening. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried during our Meal Questions and it’s become a special tradition.
Bedtime is also great for talk time. Hold hands and take turns praying. When kids pray, their hearts open and sometimes you get to peek inside.
Get professional help: A counselor is needed, especially in abuse cases, to get communication started.
Doing it all right is not the issue. Looking in the eyes of a child and letting them know they matter is. So grab a bucket….we all have some water deep down in the well that is waiting for us!
Sue is the author of Grandma Sue’s Bible Adventures in Rhyme, and has her own blog.
Here’s one of Grandma Sue’s Adventures
Available at: www.grandma-sue.com