Supporting your child to open up: TLC
Worried about your child’s emotional or mental health? Not sure where to begin in even beginning to address things.
Before you have ‘the conversation’, ask yourself these 3 key questions; an easy way to remember these is using the abbreviation TLC;
T is for Time: is this the most appropriate time to have the conversation?
L is for location: is this the most appropriate location to have the conversation?
C is for Child: is this right way to talk to this child?
Time of conversation
The timing of your conversation is hugely important. Make sure you set aside some time for it. Don’t rush your child. Give them your full attention. Clear your diary and think about possible distractions. Switch your phone off if you have to. Have the conversation at a time when you are least likely to be disturbed by others.
Where you have the conversation is just as crucial as the timing of it. Having the conversation over the dining table, in front of the rest of the family may not be appropriate. They may not want their siblings to know the ins and outs of what is going on, regardless of how well they get on. Similarly, try to avoid public places like busy coffee shops and restaurants where they will be conscious of other people listening in.
The place of your conversation may be different from one child to the next. The age of your child can often play a huge factor in this. If your child is a bit younger, they may prefer to be out in the garden or chat to you under their makeshift den. They key is letting your child take the lead. If they feel comfortable enough in their environment, it may make opening up to you that bit easier.
Right approach for this child?
Once you have decided on when and where to have the conversation, ask yourself whether this is the right way to have the conversation. What works for one child will not necessarily work for others. What works for a 6 year old will not necessarily work for a16 year old. If you force your child to sit down and fire a load of questions at them, you may lose them within the first couple of minutes. But if you let them take the lead, perhaps pick an activity that you can both do together, (even something as simple as going for a walk), you may hold their attention long enough to find out what’s going on. Being less formal, non- confrontational and making it less obvious that you are digging is an approach that works better for some children.
Dr Sarah Vohra
Author of ‘Mental Health in Children and Young People’