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Page 26 Parenting - Sláinte Magazine



It’s very frustrating for parents when they know that something is bothering their child, but they either refuse to discuss it or insist there’s really nothing wrong. Child Clinical Psychologist Anne O'Connor explains the best ways to encourage your child to talk about their worries.

There can be several reasons why

experiencing difficulties in the form

They need to hear that you love

your child might find it hard to

of bullying or abuse, one of the

them no matter what. Emphasise

discuss their worries with you or

main reasons they may not want to

that the problem lies with whoever

any other adult. So the first step is

talk about it is the fear of what

is teasing them. If your child is very

to understand what’s preventing

would happen if they do. They may

reluctant to talk to you and you

your child from confiding in you.

have been warned not to tell

suspect they may be ashamed of

Here are some of the more

anyone or they may be afraid the

what’s been happening, be

common reasons:

situation will get worse if they tell

prepared to give them plenty of

someone. If this is the case, you

time and reassurance before they

will need to offer reassurance to

begin to open up to you.


scared TO TELL

Sometimes children can be

your child– explain that adults often find solutions that don’t get the child into more trouble, and so on.

frightened by the consequences of


trying to SHIELD YOU!

‘telling’. If this is the case, you may have to do some preparatory work with them before you can expect your child to open up. This work may take place over a few weeks


Sometimes children are teased

let themselves

in some way – maybe their family


dresses differently, or comes from

because their parents are different

and consist of gentle

Often, when children are the

a different country, for example.

suggestions and reassurances

victims of bullying or abuse, they

These children may attempt to

feel they have let themselves and

shield their parents by not telling

by telling you about their

their parents down. Also, they may

them what is happening. If you

problem. If you know of

feel that they are to blame in some

suspect this, you can address this

that they’ll have nothing to fear

particular concerns they have, (fears that bullying will get worse if they tell you about it, for example), you should address those concerns first before

way for what’s happening to them.

issue first before asking them

For example, the child who is

what’s wrong. Discuss diversity in

constantly being teased about their

society and how cultural

weight will come to see their

differences can lead to

weight as the root of the problem

misunderstanding. Some people

and not the bully.

feel threatened when faced with

expecting your child to confide in you. If your child is

the unfamiliar and respond by If you find yourself in this situation,

being mean and teasing the

you may need to look for extra help

person they perceive to be

from the school. It can take a long

different. If your child

time to undo the damage done by

understands this message, they

this type of bullying, and the

will be more likely to understand

important first step is to get a

what’s happening and be able to

picture of what is happening. At

tell you about it.

this stage, the child needs a lot of reassurance and love.

For more information, visit – Ireland’s No. 1 website for pregnancy and parenting information and advice.

Your role as a parent Listen to your child – it’s very important to children that they’re not put under too much pressure to talk about worries and that, when they do open up, their parents are listening. When our children begin to explain something difficult to us, we may begin to ask too many questions and pressurise them for more and more details. Often, we don’t give ourselves a chance to listen calmly and attentively and respond to the distress our child may be expressing.

1. Give enough time or space to talk – your child may choose an inconvenient time for you to talk about their worries – just as you’re leaving for work, or rushing to get them to sports in time, for example. So if you can’t give their worries any major attention straightaway, make sure you get back to them later. But if at all possible, try to give your child time and space to chat with you. Most things can wait and the attention you give your child now not only signals to them how seriously you take them, it also takes some pressure off them

2. Foster an open relationship – you can also work at creating an atmosphere at home that fosters open communications and relationships between all family members. It is usually easier for children to approach parents with their worries if they are used to having chats and discussions with them. You need to be constantly aware of creating spaces in your lives that are shared, relaxed times that you spend together. Look at developing interests with your child to allow you to spend time with them.

3. It can be easy to spot that your child is worried about something, but sometimes the challenge is to enable them to talk about these worries. Having a close relationship with your child with open and trusting communication will help. Also, trying to sensitively address the things that are preventing your child from speaking with you is important. And when your child does begin to share their worries, your ability to listen before jumping in with a response is crucial.

Sláinte: Is your child a secret worrier?  
Sláinte: Is your child a secret worrier?