07/28/2016 05:44 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2017

Tips for Connecting With the Quiet Child

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Do you notice that your child or teen seems to be keeping to herself or himself a lot more lately? Although this child has always been "close-to-the-vest" with feelings, you sense she or he needs you now, maybe more than ever, and you want to help. During his or her her youngest years, there was affection and cuddling, but now there seems to be too much distance.

Both young girls and boys can be hard to engage just when they need it the most, what can you do to help without being too intrusive?

Finding Special Moments

• One way of approaching your child or teen without broaching a problem topic, per se, is just by spending special moments. You might be emptying the dishwasher when he's nearby, so you just do it all a lot more slowly. Instead of it being a chore, it becomes time together.

• Instead of rushing your child to the school bus, offer to drive her, so she can sleep in and then have more time with you on the ride. It's amazing sometimes how a little more rest and unexpected time together brings on some conversation. Or, even if you both remain quiet, there is that needed time together that may open a door on the way home.

• Suggest to your child, that he skip his chores this weekend and ask him if he'd like to head out to a movie together of his choosing. This might seem unusual, mom and kid alone in a theatre. But it's fun and relaxing and time together. Again, nothing special has to be discussed, but the special moments are there.

Making Small Talk

Sometimes the best way to talk about important things is to begin with small talk.

• Avoid, "How is school?" which is often a hot topic. Instead ask about favorite TV shows, a funny YouTube, a special singer.

• Learn what goes on in your child's world without judgment. Just be interested and curious.

• Learn from your child. They love teaching their parents and feeling they know more than you do. (And they do when it comes to their peer culture.)

Bridging the Gap

After days and maybe weeks, of these new times together, you may recognize that your child is warming up to you more than she had. Now is the time, when nothing else is pressing, to share that you've been a little worried about how she is doing. Ask if there is anything that would help to talk about.

Then wait. Please wait. Don't press. Allow silence. You may be surprised if minutes or even hours later, your child comes to you to discuss what's been on his or her mind with no adult to guide them.

How Wonderful to Feel Like the Devoted Parent You Are

You've done it. You've engaged your quiet child or you've entered the teenage world where you thought you were forbidden. There has been no hustle or bustle, no upset angry moments, no feelings of intrusion. Just closeness. Precious parent-child time that will only grow more fully as time goes on.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst who writes about parenting, child and teen development, mental health and Parental Intelligence. Look for her book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.