A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Your Children about School

Conversations screech to a halt in a lot of homes in the after school hours when parents ask “How was school today?” If that’s been your opening line, your child has probably told you that school was okay or even suggested that somehow the day went by without any activity occurring.

What you really want is for them to open up and talk about school and their friends. After all, you’re concerned about their education and happiness, and you want to be there for them.

Even if your children seem a little reticent, they need your support too.

Try these strategies that can help you communicate more effectively.

Nonverbal Communication Strategies:

1. Take a breather. If you arrive home looking forward to some peace and quiet after a day at the office, your children might feel the same way after school lets out. Give them a half hour to relax before mentioning homework.

2. Be affectionate. Touch is vital for healthy brain development and bonding. Hug your children regularly.

3. Play around. Small children may find it difficult to put their feelings into words. Tossing a ball around or jumping rope can help release stress. When they’re ready to talk, stuffed animals or sock puppets may help them express how they feel.

4. Use art. Study the drawings that your child brings home. They may give you insights into what they’re thinking about.

5. Stay informed. The more you know about your child’s schedule and studies, the more you’ll be able to support them. Talk with their teacher and other parents. Use the school website to stay updated on news and events.

6. Engage in activities. The most constructive conversations often develop naturally when you’re preparing dinner or taking a walk together. Spending time with your children creates more opportunities for deeper communication.

7. Schedule family dinners. One of the most beneficial activities is eating together. Regular family dinners provide a time to connect and practice conversation skills.

Verbal Communication Strategies:

1. Ask specific questions. Younger children often need targeted questions to help them organize their thoughts. If you want to understand what happened at recess, guide them through it step by step.

2. Be direct. Transparency will earn you more trust than skirting around sensitive subjects. Be gentle but firm when you need to explore behavior issues or failing grades.

3. Offer praise. Pay attention to your child’s accomplishments as well as the areas where they might be struggling. Let them know that you’re proud of them for making an effort to learn French or being kind to a new child who just transferred to their school.

4. Encourage solutions. It’s tempting to rush in and fix things when you see your child in distress. However, they’ll have a brighter future if you give them enough room to solve their own challenges.

5. Laugh it up. Use a little humor to defuse embarrassing situations. Share a story from your childhood about how you dealt with a teacher who scared you or tried to make yourself more popular.

6. Be a role model. Sharing details about your workplace will show your child how to talk about their experiences too. You may find that they’ll be asking you to tell them about your day.

7. Listen closely. Be an active listener. Set aside time to stop what you’re doing, and give your child your full attention. They’ll be more likely to open up when they see how much you care.

The way you talk with your children has a major impact on being able to share information and build strong connections. Let your child know that you’re interested in their school day, and ask them what you can do to help them learn and grow.

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