The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
How do I get my kids to open up?
Every morning I like to walk, I try to walk at least 5 miles every day, and it’s usually before anyone else gets up, like around 4:30–5:00 AM. One night the wife and I noticed that one of the kids was acting “standoffish” around us, so the wife asked him if something was wrong, and he said “I’m fine” in a tone that worried her. When she told me about it, I went to his room and asked him if he would like to join me on my morning walk, and he jumped at the chance, even after I told him that it means getting up at 4:00 AM and being out the door by 4:30.
So the next morning I get up at 4:00 and the kid was already up and had made me breakfast (which set off alarm bells in my head because this kid never cooks), but I didn’t say anything and I ate it and we left around 5:00. During the walk, out of nowhere, he started asking me questions about what it’s like to be a dad, and if I liked being one, even asking if I felt the same way with him and his brothers (he was a stepson). When I said that I love all of the kids in the house the same, he said “cool” and immediately quit talking. I knew there was something he really wanted to talk about, so I just let it drop and about a mile later he asked if we could slow down as he was having a hard time keeping up with my pace.
When I slowed down, he said “I got my girlfriend pregnant and I’m scared.” He had just turned 15. When I looked at him, I could see he was about to burst into tears. I told him it would be okay, and we will work through it. After that day, anytime he wanted to talk about anything, he would ask if he could go on walks with me, and we would talk about his problems.
The wife and I now do that with all our kids, we will isolate them from the other kids, whether it’s on walks, bike rides, going to the movies. We tell them that whatever they say with us, stays with us, except for the other parent (of course), unless they have no problems with the other kids knowing. But it’s up to them.
You will find that most kids will talk about anything and everything, if they feel comfortable with the parents. Sure it took time to gain total trust with some of my kids, but I broke the ice on some of the chats by telling them embarrassing stories about things that happened on me, or how stupid I was when I was their age, and it usually cracked the ice.
With my younger kids, the wife and I have always told them from the time they were 3 on, that they could come to us and tell us anything, and so far, they have, even things we really did not want to know about (like the first wet dream, etc).
Mike Harrison is a writer. Read more from quora below:
- Can my 7 year old daughter walk home 3 minutes with no street crossing alone from the school bus stop?