5 Reasons Your Child May Have a Hard Time Talking to You About Their Problems


Parents know that it isn’t always easy to get their children to open up. Little kids shout their feelings as they experience them in real-time. But the older the child gets, the more withdrawn they may become. There is an extent to which this is normal, and possibly even healthy. Independence is, after all, the ultimate goal of parenting.

However, when your child is struggling with something, and you don’t know how to help them, the situation can feel helpless. In this article, we take a look at five reasons your child may have a hard time talking to you about their feelings, and what you can do to improve the situation.

Fear of Judgment

Children often feel afraid of reaching out because they are worried that it will change the way the other person sees them. Think about times that you have refrained from describing personal problems to other people in your life.

Isn’t the reason often because you don’t know how the other person will respond internally and externally to the issue? Your child may very well feel the same way.

While it can be hard to overcome this hurdle, it may help to slowly establish a sharing dynamic. Keep in mind that this goes both ways. Demonstrate effective communication skills by speaking openly about the details of your life, and by listening carefully and without judgment when they do the same.

This is often easier said than done. As a parent, and for that matter, a human, you naturally have opinions on what your children tell you. A time and place (may) arrive when it is appropriate to share those opinions. However, it is important that you keep communication channels healthy, even when your child tells you something that you find upsetting.

Lack of Privacy

Children also often worry about the confidentiality of their personal information. Sometimes, it might be a simple issue of worrying about family gossip. They don’t want to tell you something that you will then relay to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc.

Other times, the issue might be a little more existential. For example, they may be concerned that if they tell you they are struggling with anxiety or depression, it might result in a visit with the school counselor.

This is a trickier consideration to navigate because you can’t necessarily guarantee that you won’t need to share the information they tell you.

When your child asks for your confidence, it may help to apply the same caveats that a priest or therapist might. Tell them that you will keep their privacy as long as what they say does not threaten their own safety or the safety of others.

As for the aforementioned concern— family gossip—you may be able to alleviate this worry simply by being more tight-lipped with other people’s secrets. If your kids know that you can be discreet, they will trust you more with their problems.

Inadequate Time and Attention

Family life gets complicated by busy schedules. Sometimes simple conversation can feel inaccessible, both because you are too busy to make time for it, and because you just don’t have the energy at the end of a long day.

Your child may feel hesitant to approach you with their concerns when you seem overwhelmed yourself. Conversely, they may also try to minimize problems internally when they don’t feel like they have the time or energy to address them.

Both are issues that lack a simple solution. You can help overcome this barrier by consciously devoting time each day to your children. During this time, sideline distractions, and just take an opportunity to enjoy conversing with your kids.

This won’t always result in a made-for-TV style heart-to-heart, but it will be memorable, enjoyable, and much appreciated by everyone involved.

Difficulty in Expressing Emotions

Most people don’t like discussing challenging feelings. Kids are no better at this than adults, and they often have the added difficulty of lacking the words, or the experiences to fully ground and contextualize their experiences. They may not know enough to understand that they are struggling with anxiety, or depression, or—well. Fill in the blank.

Schools are getting better at working with kids every day to gauge and recognize their feelings. You can do the same by regularly checking in with your kid’s emotions. Ask them to simply describe the way that they feel. Some educators will use simple graphics to further help kids describe challenging emotions.

It will ultimately be up to you to choose the option most suitable to your child’s needs.

Past Reactions and Experiences

A child’s past experiences significantly influence their willingness to share problems. If they’ve encountered negative responses or dismissive attitudes when confiding in their parents before, they may become wary of future sharing.

It happens to the best of us. They do something bad. You get mad. They don’t stop making mistakes, but they sure stop telling you about them.

As a parent, navigating this dynamic is tricky. You need to apply discipline to teach lessons. However, if you scream and shout, it can have long-lasting consequences for how your child perceives and interacts with you.

While you can’t undo past encounters, you can work hard to respond more levelly when they make mistakes.


There are no perfect solutions when it comes to getting your child to open up. Being attentive and honest yourself can go a long way towards helping. However, in certain situations, it may be necessary to utilize professional intervention.

There are a wide variety of therapeutic and family counseling services that can help open a stream of communication between you and your child. Depending on what your child is struggling with, this may be the best way to get to the heart of the issue.

Just remember that no situation is hopeless. While watching from the sidelines as your child struggles is never easy, there is help available.

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