You could be the best parent in the world and there will be things your kids don’t tell you. Maybe they don’t think it’s important. Maybe they are worried about your reaction – even if there is no need for them to worry. Maybe they are embarrassed.
Your kids are right…to a point. Some of those things they don’t share with you are relatively inconsequential. If they told you every single thought they had, neither of you would get anything done. On the other hand, there are some thoughts they have that you really need to know. Things they may desperately want you to help them sort through, but are reluctant to tell you.
There is a book titled, “Things I Wish My Teacher Knew”. It argues that teachers would be much more effective if they had crucial information about the things their students choose not to share with them. The same is true for Christian parenting. You may be missing key bits of information that could help you parent more effectively. And you are missing these bits of information because your kids have chosen not to share them with you.
Those are the things you must make safe for them to tell you. Otherwise, they will be struggling alone or with the help of equally inexperienced peers. Creating a safe space for them to share these thoughts isn’t overly complicated. They need a time and place where they have your full attention and some privacy. They need you to listen actively – seeking to understand before you seek to help or correct. They need to know you aren’t going to have an emotional explosion- erupting anger all over them if what they say is upsetting to you.
They will test you with easy things at first. They won’t know they are testing you of course, but they are. They will tell you something that they are pretty sure you won’t get upset about and see how you react. Then when that goes well consistently, they may tell you something where there is a risk you will get a little upset with them. Only after you have earned their trust (or if they are so miserable and desperate, they talk regardless), will they truly open their hearts and share all of those thoughts you need to know.
In my ministry, I see kids who are struggling all of the time. Kids who desperately want help, but who are afraid to ask their parents for it. They may be acting out in hopes of their parents paying enough attention to them to realize how much they are struggling. In these situations, I am heart broken for the struggling young person and heart broken for their parents, who often have no idea how much their children are struggling.
If you try creating a safe space for your kids to open up and they still aren’t talking, try asking them if they did something they knew would make you angry – would they tell you. If not, ask them what you could do differently so they would feel like they could tell you anything. They need to know you will love them through the consequences you may have to give them. You will help them problem solve even if the problem itself is breaking your heart. You are and always will be their best advocate and will do anything you can to help them spend eternity in Heaven.