Whenever your children approach you, or when you ask them about things they have experienced, it’s always important to keep in mind that children are like onions. When someone shares vulnerable information with another person, especially if they think highly of them, they are likely to share just a little at a time, layer by layer.
They may hold some level of shame or embarrassment around the issue. They may be uncomfortable and want to know if you will be too. They share a little, see how you react, and then share a little more. So be aware that there are likely lots of layers to a situation or story. They may only be sharing a part of how they felt (the less important part). They may only be sharing a part of a “bad” situation. They may only be sharing one time when something has actually happened many times.
What can you do to invite more conversation, and help them feel comfortable enough to share?
Be calm. If you don’t get upset or emotionally heightened, they will be less likely to close off.
Be curious. Curiosity helps you be calm, gives you space to think, and also helps you gather really important information. Curiosity gets you gently probing for and through more layers.
Be patient and persistent. Recognize you may not get through all the layers in a day. But don’t assume you’ve got the full story. If they are done for the day, wait. Think through it yourself–be curious–look for holes or inconsistencies in the story timeline, in how they felt, etc. that may be indicative of more layers.
Trust your gut. This is the most important part. You may feel everything is on the table, and if so, that’s great. But if something feels off, trust it. You have God-given parental intuition.