I was recently asked this question by a parent.
Well, first of all, a clear understanding of why he is not talking is critical, and this could range from the child being an introvert through to big issues at school such as bullying, poor marks, or a lack of self esteem or resilience. From my experience in education and dealing with many parents and kids, I have found the root cause in many cases to be a fear or anxiety. No, maybe not fear of the parent, but maybe fear of what the parent may say or do.
Let’s examine things a little further. Do you know if your boy is an introvert or an extravert? It’s more than just about being shy, or outgoing – in fact, it really is not that at all. An introvert derives their energy internally, from within, and after a long day at school with many people and activities, they prefer to recharge on their own, often in a quiet space, free of distractions. The extravert, on the other hand, is stimulated by other people and may look for even more stimulation after a day at school. So what?
Well, as a parent of an introverted child, you will need to respect the need for down time and a special space. If you want to know about how the day has gone, or you just want to shoot the breeze, don’t expect much to happen. You need to be sensitive to an introvert’s needs and when they are ready, they will share. Often this requires active listening on your part, so that you can pick up on cues – something that is said in passing – that you can build a discussion on. Let conversation occur in their timing. The introvert child often struggles with making small talk, so don’t expect that to happen either.
On the other hand, if you are the parent of an extraverted child, you would think that they would come home ready to share all of the events of the day. Well, not necessarily so! They may be craving more interaction with more of their friends, so a one-on-one conversation may backfire with them. In fact, you may get some of the best conversation when you engage them in activities with other people – like some pick-up basketball or a going for a jog through the neighbourhood. Be aware that they usually enjoy an audience and that they may even speak before they think.
Another factor to consider and ask yourself is why do you feel they are not talking to you. It issue may go far beyond the introvert/extravert concept. Maybe they have been bullied, made fun of, or can’t handle the pressures of school. Maybe they broke up with their girlfriend and are devastated and don’t know where to turn. Whether introvert or extravert, the key here is letting them know that you are always available for support and unconditional love – whatever that may look like in your family unit. If they know that you will be there to uphold them, they will communicate in their time. They may be sharing a lot of information with their peers, looking for support and guidance there. When they find that avenue lacking, they will come to you. Countless studies have shown that kids will often communicate first with their peers, but they one they ultimately respect and depend upon is the parent.
So, don’t give up! Whether your boy is an introvert or an extravert, listen actively and commend them when they do engage in conversation. Always keep the lines of communication open.