If a child is not opening up when he or she is upset, your relationship may not as close as it needs to be.
As a child therapist, the most common complaint I hear from parents is, “he just won’t talk to me.” Feeling estranged from your own child is painful, and it has implications for the child. Research indicates the most important predictor of a child’s emotional and psychological stability is the closeness of the parent/child relationship. If a child is not opening up when they are upset, the relationship may not be as close as it needs to be.
There are two habits that parents routinely engage in that shut down communication and drive a child away: negating feelings and mistaking sympathy for empathy.
Sympathy vs. Empathy
When children are truly in distress because they feel hurt, disappointed, worried, or angry, they desperately need their parent(s). Yet, often, parents don’t want to see their children feeling negative, so their first instinct is to tell their children not to feel the way they do. Before parents think, statements such as “don’t be disappointed” or “don’t be mad” escape. This results in children feeling ashamed of how they feel, compounding the hurt. Moreover, the knowledge that their parent does not understand leaves them feeling alone, which is detrimental. Basically, children learn that opening up about how they feel makes them feel worse.