Sometimes the signs of a child emotionally reaching out are hard to identify as all children are different. But there are some signs you can watch out for, so you know you are giving your child everything they need to be emotionally and mentally healthy.

sad child

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Why you need to read the signs of whether or not your child is emotionally reaching out

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to help families better understand one another and have fruitful and emotionally close relationships.

I believe that to have good relationships with your kids, you have to understand ALL of them–their emotions, their mental health, their peers, social media, and everything they will face in their life.

The older I get, and the older my son gets, the farther away I feel from his reality.

It’s my hope that with intentionality, parents can be the more substantial influence in their children’s lives when they don’t try and control their kids, but rather walk alongside them as their non-judgmental example and model of healthy.

One of the things we love to encourage parents to do here on Word from the Bird is to encourage your children to express their feelings freely. That’s why we’ve created this interactive Kid’s Printable Journal to help them express their feelings, spark creativity, and encourage gratitude. Journaling is an amazing tool for kids to better express themselves.

When a child reaching out emotionally is normal

Kids will rebel, and that’s just a part of a child’s journey. But the magnitude at which they rebel, and whether or not they come back, have a lot to do with you and how you handle it. That being said, this element of parenting is emotionally fragile for parents.

It doesn’t feel good when your child disrespects you. It doesn’t feel good when your toddler screams in your face as you’re doing your best to calm them down. It doesn’t feel good when your 4-year-old screams that he hates you when you give him a consequence.

So with all that in mind, it’s important to remember that even though we would like our children to behave one way, it doesn’t mean they will comply. And I’m here to tell you that that is entirely normal.

Reading the signs and understanding the needs of your child that’s emotionally reaching out

As kids get older, they will begin to recognize that they are their own person with their own choices and opinions. That’s a GOOD thing. So, where do you, as the parent, fit into their life? You will be their cheerleader, their confidant, their non-judgemental space they can always go, and their solid ground.

You are the person in their life they will go to with everything, or at least that’s the objective. You are someone who needs to show them that life is full of hardships but in the most delicate way.

You will have to teach them through example, what it means to be kind, generous, and live your life to its fullest in the face of adversity. You will be the one to teach them how to have a healthy relationship with their spouse, how to love fully, and humbly, while at the same time set boundaries for themselves. You will teach them how to love who they were created to be and accomplish their dreams.

And ALL of that hinges on teaching by example.

The definition of parenting

If you think about it, parenting is no walk in the park, and I’m sure you’re aware of that. But sometimes, we can get engulfed in the society we live in, which tells us that everything should come easy. That instant results are at your service, and parenting should also be a walk in the park.

And if it’s not, then you must be doing something horribly wrong. But that’s not what parenting is. Parenting is learning to be attentive to a child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, while at the same time letting them go, and trusting God with them.

Being attentive to their needs means being attentive to when they are telling you something without actually telling you. So, to help you on your journey of emotionally connecting with your kids, here are seven signs of a child who is emotionally reaching out.

A child emotionally reaching out could be a result of many difficult circumstances that life brings. A death in the family. A divorce. Bullies.

But sometimes, a child is just growing up and learning that the world isn’t as forgiving as they thought, and they react to that in their own way.

Even if there is no trauma in a child’s life, they will emotionally struggle in this life. They will reach out to you because you are their parent. It’s on you to know the signs and know what to do when they happen.

Signs to look out for of a child emotionally reaching out

a child on the beach alone

1. They withdraw

As a boy mom of a moody tween, I get my fair share of eye rolls and “whatever’s” throughout the day. And as it doesn’t feel great, I know that my son doesn’t mean it.

You see, as their brains develop, kids aren’t able to process emotions quite yet. Throw in the hormones, peers, the self afflicting pressure to be perfect in every single way, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.

I was telling my husband the other day that these years are harder than the toddler years. We haven’t even gotten to the teen years. Lord, help us.

But when my son withdraws, I have found that if I pull him back in, he responds.

He is showing the sign that he doesn’t want anything to do with me, but is that what he’s saying?

One way I do this is by doing or giving him something I know he loves.

I’ll offer him some sugar—yes, sugar is the way to his heart.

Perhaps lovingly tease him, so I get a smile out of him. Ask him about his “girlfriend” because he LOVES talking about her.

I show him that I’m interested in him, even though he’s pushing me away. It lightens the mood, and usually works!

But there are also times when I realize that he needs to be left alone. Read the signs, know that it will be trial and error, and do your best to meet them where they are.

Here is an amazing tool to help your child process their emotions, and keep their mind on the things they DO have, not on the things they don’t.

Check out this amazing book on parenting with purpose

angry child

2. They get REAL moody

Check out the logical reason behind your tween or teen’s bad attitude to get more info on this one.

There is usually a reason behind the bad attitude that comes from your kids. Whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens—the basics need to be covered.

Are the thirst or hungry? Did something happen at school? Did they sleep poorly? Figuring out the “why” is SO important here.

sad child

3. They get clingy

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes kids who feel emotionally detached from you will get clingy. After our second son was born, our first son was seven.

He had a tough time adjusting to the fact that we weren’t all his anymore. Our attention was wider spread, and he emotionally acted out. He got needy, and to be quite honest, he still struggles with it. Sometimes, there will be circumstances that you can’t change for them.

They will have to learn that life doesn’t always go their way, and for us, that meant talking about his feelings of jealousy. It’s a continuous conversation that needs to be had, and that’s why it’s essential to look at parenting from that perspective—there is no fix it fast solution.

4. Uncharacteristically agitated

You know your child. You know when something is off more than anyone. If they start to react to the littlest inconveniences with anger or frustration, then something is probably off, and there should be a discussion about it.

emotional child

5. They have a victim mentality

Everyone is out to get them; they can’t do anything right; they use phrases like “I’m not a good kid” or “I can’t do anything right.”

As these are normal feelings to have in life, we shouldn’t leave them to figure them out by themselves.

Usually, when a child is saying these things, it means they aren’t getting enough admiration or praise from you as the parent.

Sometimes it means they are just having a bad day. But having a victim mentality won’t help them thrive mentally or emotionally. So you can direct them to positive thought processes with encouragement and praise, without trying to control their emotions.

Even if their feelings are irrational to you, make sure they know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much you admire them.

Don’t bring to light that they are irrational. Just show them your love.

bad kid

6. Start making bad choices or engage in risky behavior

While healthy adolescent rebellion will bring about bad choices and behavior, it’s essential for them to understand boundaries, consequences, and outcomes that come along with it.

If this is a result of them emotionally reaching out, then you need to discover the underlying issue before any judgment is made. That way, if and when you choose to discipline, you aren’t neglecting the “why” if there is one.

sad little girl

7. Show signs of hopelessness or passivity

Sometimes when we discipline our son, he gets passive and responds with a “whatever, I don’t care,” which is a normal response when a child attempts to mask that the discipline didn’t affect them or do anything to teach them right from wrong.

But if it’s a regular habit that is surrounded by grief, hopelessness, or passiveness, then something might be off.

As parents, it’s vital to balance correction with admiration. Make sure you aren’t expecting perfection from your kids. Read more about this subject – Dear son, you are more than your good grades.

Looking for the sign of a child reaching out emotionally is part of parenting. Knowing what to do with those signs has everything to do with knowing your child and meeting their emotional needs on a daily basis.


Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Book list to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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