Jim and Rachel Tully of Simsbury know all too well how difficult it is to get kids to open up about their lives.
With three children, ranging in age from 12 to 16, they have schedules packed with activities. They also have a house full of the latest must-have tech gadgets and experts agree that technology is making this newer generation less sociable.
"It's texting all the time. It's e-mails. There is very little face-to-face time and really, communicative skills on the telephone or face-to-face. Technology has brought a lot of different challenges to it and it's tough to get kids to sit down and talk to you one-on-one. It's a challenge," said Jim Tully.
Heather Quinlan, a clinical social worker at Beacon Behavioral Health in Avon, advises parents to foster good communication skills from an early age. "I think they're getting used to a sort of sound-bite society, where things are quick and things are more impersonal," Quinlan said.
Children learn by watching, so Heather suggests parents share information about their own lives and work days with their kids.
Quinlan also said timing is key when getting kids to open up. While a daily check-in should be mandatory, it can be helpful to allow the child to choose what time is best for them, she said.
Rachel Tully learned that right after school or as soon as the children get home from an activity isn't the best time for them.
"They're sort-of fried from their day and that actually seems to be the least popular time to discuss the day's events. You almost need to give them time to decompress," Rachel said.
And what if a parent has to confront the child about something the child has done wrong or something they suspect they might have done?
Staying calm is a must for parents, Quinlan said. She suggests waiting to have the discussion until the parent knows they can approach it in a mature manner themselves.
"The parent has to be able to emotionally tolerate the answer without exploding, without over-reacting, without coming across as emotionally judge mental to the child," Quinlan said.
She also said this is especially important when earning the trust of a teenager. Teens who feel they are respected are more likely to approach their parents with a problem or concern they might have.
Rachel Tully said she would give her family a solid "B" when it comes to keeping their cool.
"We've learned over the years to implement things that have reduced our anxiety and help facilitate that communication," she said.