Signposts to increase your child’s self-disclosure
by Dr Jo Walker
You may be concerned that your child is reluctant to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings and experiences with others in a healthy way. Healthy self-disclosing enables children to form appropriate attachments and friendships.
Children who develop a fixed bias toward low self-disclosing can have increased risks: they can become self-reliant. They may be drawn to intense, inward-looking relationships and closed and unhealthy patterns of thinking. They can be at risk of developing anxiety-controlling self-soothing strategies. They can become fixed and difficult to help.
So how can you signpost your children to increase their self-disclosing?
Girls are, perhaps surprisingly, less self-disclosing than boys. They often have better emotional language, but may use it to deflect from what is really going on behind their front stage.
- Use a circles of trust approach to help your daughter to choose who she intentionally will be self-disclose to.
- Draw a series of concentric circles on a page and ask her who she would in each, if the ones at the centre are those she trusts most.
- Discuss why sharing with those who can be trusted is an important part of adolescence.
Boys tend to disclose self-relevant information through shared experiences and tasks rather than in a 1:1 conversation.
- As a parent, take time to consider ways in which shared tasks and experiences can support self-disclosure amongst boys.
- When you want to build rapport with your son, consider doing so through shared tasks and informal chat rather than more intense 1-1 discussions.
- For example, invite your son to help you in mending a bike, or doing the shopping, cooking a meal, or clearing the garden. Use that context to share ideas, thoughts and feelings you may be having in order to model appropriate openness.
- Create opportunities to drive your son to places and put a favourite CD/music channel on. Talk about why you like this kind of music. Invite them to choose the channel or CD on the way back, and ask why they like it.
Using the ‘feeling balloon’ metaphor if you notice changes to your child’s mood, or appetite, or attention, or sleep, or wider health.
Enabling your child to disclose and share feelings which are creating pressure or anxiety will help them to feel supported rather than isolated.
- Notice the signs when your child is feeling anxious or stressed: these signs might be changes to your child’s mood, appetite, sleep or wider health.
- Use a ‘feeling balloon’ metaphor to help them identify the feelings they are carrying and the impact of holding on to them.
- Get your child to imagine that each time we have to cope with an emotional response to situations it is a bit like blowing air into a balloon. There
30 Nov 2016 - Lowering your child's trust of themself