Written by Adele Ballantyne

Adele has an MA in Relationship Therapy in 2011 and is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). She has experience in helping a wide variety of individuals, couples and families. Her consultancy work with organisations includes contracts with hospitals and NHS Trust departments.

Children are like sea shells. Once they clam up it is so very hard to prise them open and find out what is going on for them. There are some key points that can help you listen and talk to your child:

  • Practice really Use your non-verbal communication to show you’re listening (e.g. nodding your head) but don’t say anything. Even when they’ve just stopped talking, give it a moment before you speak. It’s amazing how much information you can get out of someone when you don’t fill up the spaces with your own words and thoughts.
  • Children, even older ones, have shorter attention spans than adults. They can concentrate for perhaps 5 or 6 sentences before drifting back into a daydream. Don’t talk to them with long monologues and don’t pack lots of information into one speech.
  • Children often open up at the least opportune moment. More often than not this is because they know you aren’t over-prepared and that you won’t ‘make a big deal’ at these times. Sometimes it could be because they just want to reach out to you and have some of your time and attention. Keep conversations low key. If you care less than they do about having the conversation then they are more likely to talk openly (even if you are just feigning this casual approach).
  • Children find it easier to talk when you are not sitting face to face, perhaps when you’re in the car, on a walk, while you’re cooking. Being physically close, but not having to look at one another’s faces, helps conserve brain capacity so that you can both process the conversation more easily.

Additional Resources

Recommended books for parents going through separation and divorce.

You maybe interested to read Dr Angharad Rudkin’s article ‘What Does It Mean To Put Your Children First”

You may also find our Useful Links page helpful.


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