Ways to help children open up

It can be tricky when our children go back to school after the long holiday and we go from knowing all about what they are up to, to having very little idea of what their day involves and how much they are enjoying it. It's especially hard if we suspect that they might be some things that they are struggling with. Sometimes it looks like our children are processing lots of feelings and would really benefit from chatting about them, but they don't seem to want to open up. 

Here are a few ideas for ways to encourage them to talk if they would like to:

1) Do a gentle activity together, preferably just you and the child. Something like a nice walk, gardening or sorting out a cupboard (a nice boring one that they don't care too much about - not their precious toys or anything emotive). Not looking directly at each other can make it easier to talk and since you're likely to be worbling about nothing particular, it makes it easier for the conversation to move on to bigger issues.

2) Share some true random childhood memories of things that people in your class said or did and how it made you feel. For example "I remember when a girl in my class said that my hair was like sheep's wool. I just thought it was a strange and rude thing to say at the time, but I remember it clearly over 30 years later so I guess it must have actually upset me." Even if the memories are not especially relevant, it might prompt a general discussion about different emotions and the impact that people can have on each other. 

3) Sometimes, if you are only getting a vague "it was okay" answer, then it can help for your child to give a day (or a particular lesson, experience or whatever) a score. This can lead on to a bit more of a chat about why it got that score e.g. "Art was only 6/10 today when it's often one of your favourite things? What would have made it a 9/10 lesson?" Scores can also help us understand whether things are getting better or worse, e.g. 'lunchtime is a bit lonely' but if the score is better this week than last week then it's reassuring that things are at least improving.  Obviously you would only want to talk about scores now and again; rating everything would get a bit boring for both of you!

The final point I think we all know: don't ask too often. Maybe your child copes by switching off and focusing on gentle home thoughts; they might not want to keep returning to reliving the school day, especially if parts of it were a bit difficult. By being warm and kind, hopefully our cuties will turn to us when they feel ready. 

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