5 Words Kids Crave

"I have time for you"

Call it emotional tug of war. As children get older, they start becoming more independent, but they still want your attention.

“In their peer culture, they sometimes don’t want to be seen being dropped off by mom or dad,” said Michael Pella, LIMHP, CHI Health Mental Health Therapist. “But they still want to know they are loved and their parents are there for them.”

When kids want to talk, it’s important to make time. If interactions are positive, they’ll be more likely to reach out for reassurance and perspective. “If they don’t feel like they will be judged or dismissed, the probability of them going to mom and dad is much higher,” Pella said. His advice:

Listen – “It’s extremely important. Just listening and not judging. Be in the moment and set your phone aside.”

Repeat – “Paraphrase a little bit what they’re saying so they know they’ve got your full attention.”

Validate – “They want to know what they’re experiencing is normal and real for them. Maybe relate to something that happened to you as a kid.”

Ask – “Use open-ended questions, like: ‘What do you think?’”

Empathize – “Be on their level. It’s about walking hand-in-hand through the most difficult parts of being a kid, because it isn’t always easy being a kid.”

Suggest – “Give them information in a nonjudgmental, non-authoritarian way. It’s about empowerment. If you start to make choices for them and/or tell them what to do, they will pull away.”

Stay calm – “Keep emotions level and keep your voice tone level. If there’s any anger, they will tune you out and/or match this intensity. Be honest, open, with love.”

Persist – “Have little check-ins sporadically. Your child might not want to talk the first, second or third time. The fourth time they might have so much to say, you’ll think, oh my gosh!”

More Ways to “Show Up”

  • Go to their activities
  • Leave them little notes of encouragement
  • Make a favorite meal
  • Watch a movie/go on a walk
  • Use humor as a relationship builder/laugh at yourself
  • Do an activity that kids want to do

Michael D. Pella, LIMHP

Mental Health Therapy