Listen and Talk about School Every Day
Talk to your child every day
Studies show that talking and listening to your child for at least 15 minutes every day may be just enough to open up the lines of communication, and as a result, your child will look to you for advice and help with difficult choices and decisions, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources report. Talking each day sends the message to your child that you care about what they are doing and you are there to support them. This will also set the stage for open communication as your child enters the teen years when communication can become more difficult. Every parent knows that when a child walks in the door and the parent asks, “What did you do at school today?” the classic response is “Nothing”. Getting your child to take part in a meaningful conversation, particularly about school, may be one of your biggest challenges, but it also may be one of the most important things you do. There is no right way or perfect question to start a conversation about school, but below are some strategies you might want to try.
How to listen so your child will talk
- Stay informed about your child's life at school. If possible, go to the orientation or open house, read the school newsletter if they have one, or attend parent-teacher conferences. The more you know about your child’s school life, the easier it will be to start a conversation about it.
- Allow your child some down time. Give your child some time when he gets home from school instead of asking him a lot of questions about his day as soon as he comes home. He may need a break from school talk right after being there all day. Instead, let him have a snack and relax a little bit and he may be more likely to open up.
- Try not to force the conversation. Let it happen naturally; your child may feel more comfortable talking about school in a casual setting, for example when you are cooking or riding in the car or on the bus. Your child may say something about school when you least expect it. If you are listening for this, you can use the opportunity to open the conversation and ask questions about school activities that are meaningful to her because she brought them up.
- Talk about your day. Talk about something interesting or funny that happened to you that day. Your child may feel like he is being interrogated if all you do is ask questions about school and homework when he come home. If you start the conversation by sharing something about your own day, this may encourage your child to share something about his day without you even having to ask!
- Don't talk about only homework and grades. Chances are, this may be the last thing your child wants to talk about, and if you start the conversation about school with this right away, she may clam right up and avoid conversations about school all together. Your child does many things at school everyday and if all you ask about is what homework she has and how she did on her last test or quiz, she may feel like you are nagging her rather than being supportive and showing an interest in her school life.
- Ask for details. If you ask a question that can be responded to with “yes” or “no”, that is all you will get. Instead, try something that is more probing and that elicits an opinion, thought, or idea on the part of your child. If you ask meaningful question, you will be more likely to get meaningful answers. For example, ask what the best part of the day was, ask about specific events, or ask your child to explain a part of the homework.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.
Learning & Education