Parents might experience difficulty when approaching their children about critical issues. Kids might have severe struggles—like addiction, behavioral concerns, or mental health issues—that we, as parents, want to help our kids get through. However, sometimes, our kids “put up a wall,” and we cannot seem to get through to them. If our kid has been in therapy, treatment, or counseling, we might still need to bridge the gap to re-build our relationship with them.
Having a “Prop” to Engage in Conversation
Consider how we connect with others and build relationships: do we build relationships by forcing conversations, or do we share experiences that inspire conversations? Most of our friendships and relationships begin with sharing something outside of ourselves to form a bond. We might have met our best friend in college as we shared an interest in a course. Many people meet future spouses at work as they share projects and get close to one another, working toward a common goal. Finding a shared interest or common goal can also help us connect with our kids. Here are some tips:
- Learn more about your child’s interests. You might feel “out of touch” and unable to relate to what your kids like.
- Remember that the reason someone likes something is more important than what they like. For example, we might feel alienated by our child’s choice of music, and they might not like ours. Ask your child why they like the things that they do. The “why” is where we will find common ground.
- By focusing on “props” or things outside of ourselves, we can ease the way to deeper conversations by building relationships with “lighter” topics, like sports, music, video games, etc.
- If you are unsure of your child’s interests or do not know much about them, ask them about what they like.
Experiences Open the Door to Connections
Shared experiences open the door to building stronger bonds and connections. Sometimes, we need to get out somewhere with our kids to have meaningful conversations. We might want to think of getting outside for a walk in the park or hike through the woods. Our kids might be too distracted at home to engage in conversation. They might be thinking of their video games, homework, or other distractions. When we get out of our daily environment, we can leave our distractions behind and focus on one another.
Gregory Koufacos and Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey discuss the use of experiences to get through to kids, especially young men, who struggle with talk-therapy during the Beyond Risk and Back podcast. Some people are more able to open up when they’re exposed to reality. We can connect with our kids by getting out of the house and into nature.
Authenticity, Vulnerability, and Connection
As parents, we want to maintain a sense of authority over our homes. We might not show signs of weakness or emotion. We also might have a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding any behavioral issues to drive the point home. While setting limits and boundaries is vital to a healthy home, our kids might be intimated by us if they do not realize we are human. Our kids might not open up to us under the assumption that we are perfect, and they are a disappointment. For more insight into a child’s perspective in recovery, watch “Shannon’s Story.”
We can build an authentic relationship with our kids by showing vulnerability and sharing stories of our past mistakes. While our children might be engaging in maladaptive or dangerous behaviors, they might be coping with stressors that we never experienced at their age. Instead of maintaining a tough exterior, we can break down the wall to show our kids that we also have emotions. We can then relate to the emotions while modeling and showing how we dealt with stress.
Always Focus on Love and Connection
Remember to keep the focus on building a connection and expressing love. Let your kid know that you love them no matter what and that you are there for them. Your child might not open up to you right away; they might seem withdrawn. As parents, we might feel hurt when our kids do not open up to us. However, our kids sometimes need to get through their own barriers and fight their own battles in treatment. Let your kids know that you are there for them to talk if they feel comfortable.
When your kids are struggling, you want to be there for them. You want to fix the problems and get your kids through whatever is going on. Just knowing that you are there for them and supporting them can help them get through their current crisis.
Communicating effectively with your children can help you understand what is going on in their lives. Sometimes, kids put up a barrier that may be difficult for us to break down. As parents, we want to know what is going on in our kids’ lives, especially if they are dealing with challenging issues and problematic behaviors. Our kids might need additional support outside of the home to begin opening up. Sometimes, our kids are not opening up to us because they feel like a disappointment or are ashamed. We can help by letting them know about our own struggles and talking about how we cope with things. If your child is struggling with problematic behaviors, you might benefit from additional support. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center in the Colorado Rockies is here for both teens and parents. We can teach you the skills you need to help your troubled child and get through to them. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.