How to be an Approachable Parent

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When your child is feeling down or they’re struggling with a situation in their little lives your first impulse as a caring parent is to fix it for them. Because, let’s face it, if we can get them back to feeling happy we’ll feel happier too.

In these moments that can be confusing for kids your child is learning about their emotions and about the real world. What is most needed from you is to offera safe place. A place of understanding and empathic listening for your child to share their ups and downs – not for you to solve their problems - as hard as that is for you to resist.

Children need to feel understood by parents who care and understand how to listen. You don’t have to say the perfect thing at the perfect time, you simply need to be willing to listen and ready to respond to your child’s needs.

If you want your kids to come to you with their problems and to talk to you on those not -so- good days, here are 4 important things to keep in mind…..

  1. Your first response matters. It’s important you respond calmly and with empathy. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to understand what they may be feeling. A simple response that offers connection and understanding is what’s needed. You could try a response like, “Wow, that must have been hard” or “I can see how sad you are about that.”
  2. Stop what you’re doing. Giving your child your full attention will let them know they’re important. Your child will know you’re interested and you care about what they are saying. You need to invest time listening to your toddler or preschooler talk about the little things like who was mean or who didn’t want to play with them. If you listen attentively to the little stuff when they are young they will share the bigger stuff in the future.
  3. Give less advice. Resist the urge to solve the problem when your child is struggling. When we give kids the solutions it usually ends the conversation. It’s better to get curious about their struggle and help your child verbalize their problem. Ask questions like “I wonder why … ?” or “What do you think … ?” If your child does need help solving a problem it’s better to work together on finding a solution. Don’t fix it for them.
  4. Have a conversation. Don’t let your discussion turn into a lecture. As parents this is naturally what we want to do to make sure our kids hear our point of view loud and clear. Keep the conversation focused on your child- how they feel or how they would like to move forward with the situation. Kids will avoid coming to you with the tough stuff if they feel it will lead to a one-sided conversation. Lectures also leave kids feeling unheard and alone with their thoughts and feelings.

Every child is different when it comes to sharing what’s going on. Some kids take a while to open up, some share easily and want to share a million details.

When you take the time to love and listen you create trust. By fostering this safe and trusting space in your relationship with your kids they’ll always know there are no topics that are off limits and there is nothing they can’t discuss with you.

Changing patterns of behavior is hard and it can be confusing to try new things.

If you can relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you with your communication and becoming an approachable parent, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my work is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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