As a parent, seeing your child be visibly upset or not quite their usual self is undeniably heartbreaking – especially when you don’t know what’s wrong. Even the most communicative of children can close themselves off at times, leaving us worried and unsure of what to do or how we can help them; do we push for them to tell us what’s wrong even when they’re resistant? Do we test the waters and see if they’ll open up with gentle encouragement? Or should we wait it out and see if they come to us organically?

There are times when it can feel that, no matter what option we pick, we’re doing the wrong thing, and this can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting on both sides. All we want to do is support our child and take away their hurt, but the truth is that sometimes they might not want to share what’s going on with us as their parents; possibly out of embarrassment, maybe due to worry that they might get in trouble if they’ve done something they maybe shouldn’t have, or perhaps simply because they themselves aren’t even sure what’s wrong.

Hopefully, these occasions where your child might shut themselves off a little are few and far between, but if and when they do happen, it’s important to remember this behaviour is really normal and not a negative reflection on your parenting; just think about how many times you have been a bit upset but not wanted to talk about it yourself!

With that said, there are still some things we can try out to help them feel a little better as well as build a really solid channel of communication within your family that strengthens your bond and encourages everyone to be more open, so I’ve shared a few of my favourites with you below:



When my children were growing up, we often played a conversation starting game together at the dinner table called “High Low”. I think it really helped us grow closer as a family and open up to each other more as it created a safe and mindful place for all of us to share the positives and negatives from our day. We all enjoyed it so much that we still play it now when we’re all together, even though my children are now adults, which I think speaks for itself!

The basic idea is for each person to share one high point from their day as well as a low point, without interruptions, and have the rest of the family listen and ask questions if appropriate to find out more. Although my children used to find it fun trying to ‘out-do’ each other, these high and low points don’t have to be grand or dramatic – if anything, being able to voice the little, seemingly insignificant things like “Louisa didn’t sit next to me at lunch” as a low point is a great way to validate those feelings and stop your child bottling things up.

The aim of the game is to give everyone a chance to reflect on their day in a way that is balanced; when your child is feeling low, it’s very easy for them to just focus on the negatives, so having to think of one good point can offer a little clarity and perspective to show not everything has been “bad”, even if it feels that way. It’s also a great opportunity for you to model honest communication by opening up to your child about your day and letting them in, too.

While my family has always enjoyed “High Low” in its original form, you can also add a third focal point to the game called ‘Buffalo’, whereby you all share something random or interesting that happened or you have learned that day. This can bring in a little extra excitement to the conversation and might encourage your child to engage a bit more, especially in the early days when they might find it difficult to open up.

Distract, Redirect, Engage:

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m a big advocate for planning and preparation, especially in a homeschooling environment. Although you cannot predict when your child might be feeling a little low, with a little time and effort you can keep a few tricks to your sleeve to help distract, redirect and engage them when needed without having to declare your homeschool day a write-off.

For example, if your child seems quite quiet and unfocused and isn’t really engaging with you or your homeschool lesson, why not go off timetable a little and change things up with a Topic Time subject? It can be something as simple as picking your child’s favourite book or film and using that as the basis of your homeschooling lessons for the day, or perhaps one of the Topic Time ideas from my Homeschool Happiness Guide – you’ll be surprised by what you can come up with with a little thought and creativity!

Say your child is a huge fan of Disney’s Moana. You can follow the film’s ocean theme and work on a project about different sea creatures, learn about the different oceans of the world, research how people feed themselves by fishing and gathering when living off the grid, or maybe even listen to some Polynesian music and learn some dance moves if you/they are feeling up to it.

Whatever it is you choose, the goal is to make it as fun, interesting and engaging as possible to divert your child’s attention away from the things that are bothering them and get them back on track without completely derailing your homeschool day. Hopefully, their negative mood will resolve itself with a little distraction, but if the problem is a little deeper than the surface you may find engaging with them in this way acts as a reminder that you’re there for them to lean on and encourages them to open up about it.

If you find yourself stuck for ideas and haven’t already purchased my Homeschool Happiness Haul, you can find it here – it’s jam-packed full of other goodies to make your homeschool planning easier, too!


The Happy Place:

Although it’s really important to have a strong bond and good level communication with your child, one of the most effective ways you can help your child become more resilient and better deal with the things that bother them is to introduce the concept of a Happy Place.

Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a Happy Place is a really useful tool to add to your child’s mental health toolbox that involves the creation of an imaginary safe haven they can mentally access at any time, in any place, for any thing. The idea is for them to be able to use this Happy Place as a way to ground themselves when they’re feeling stressed, worried or anxious, which over time will help them learn how to self-regulate their emotions, and I must say that from my experience with my children it really does work.

There are no rules as to what this Happy Place should be and each child will have their own version in their heads, but if your child finds it difficult to grasp the concept or isn’t sure where to start, you can always offer them a little inspiration:

  • Some children might find it most helpful to mentally revisit a literal place they felt happy, such as a holiday destination or their bedroom, so if you have any photographs of these places you may wish to print one out for your child to use as a reference.
  • Other children may want to create a Happy Place completely from scratch, and if this is the case you may wish to help them by encouraging them draw/paint it, build it out of Lego bricks, or maybe even create it online with this game from Childline.
  • If your child needs something physical to help them, why not create a Happy Place at home by building a fort made out of pillows, sheets and furniture? You can watch a film in there with them or do a fun activity they like to create positive associations and memories they can later recall as and when they need to.

Have you ever tried any of these strategies in your family or in your homeschool? Or perhaps you have some others that work for you which you’d like to share?

Please let me know by getting in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,