Be mindful of moods
You may start a conversation when your kid doesn't want to talk, or isn't able to engage. If that happens, it's okay to let the conversation go. Your kid may not be ready to talk at that moment, but it doesn't mean they won't want the subject brought back up in the future.
Go with the flow
Kids and teens often prefer to dip in and out of conversations about their feelings. If your kid suddenly changes the subject, that doesn't mean you can't revisit the conversation again at another time. Don't try to get through everything in one sitting — instead, leave room for future conversations.
Know the physical clues
Be on the lookout for signs that your kid might be going through something challenging. These signs include:
- Changes in habits, such as eating, sleeping, self-care, or socializing.
- Mood swings or irritability.
- Difficulty or neglect for self-care, personal hygiene, etc.
- Extreme mood swings or irritability.
- Seeming much more fearful and/or avoiding certain environments, situations, or social interactions altogether (such as school avoidance.
- Using drugs or alcohol, especially changes in typical patterns of use
- Anger or getting in fights, suddenly not getting along with others.
- Increases in reckless, impulsive, out of control behaviors
- Decline in school performance.
Seek out feedback from others
It's important to pay attention to feedback from other people in your kid's life. Check in with trusted teachers, family members and coaches to hear their perspective, since they see your kid in contexts that you might not be as familiar with. Knowing that your kid might have expressed sadness or frustration at school can make it easier for you to help them through whatever challenges they're facing.
What to do after a conversation with your kid?
Give yourself a few minutes to take stock of your own emotions. It's okay if you're feeling worried or angry. If needed, reach out for help yourself. When you're ready, take a second to let your kid know that you're glad that they opened up to you.