Talking to Your Child About School

Few conversations are as frustrating to a parent as the one that takes place every day after school.  “How was your day?”  “Fine.”  Getting any information of value from kids can be like pulling teeth.

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It’s understandable that parents want the full run-down of the day’s activities.  School becomes such an integral part of kids’ lives that it’s hard to feel uninformed and uninvolved.  They want to know what their kids are learning, how their kids feel about it, and what kinds of connections their kids have made with their peers.  Trying to gather information but feeling completely shut out can be painful for parents.

One of the best ways to gain insight into a child’s inner workings is to change the approach.  As difficult as it may be, parents need to stop putting so much pressure on their children to spill the beans the moment they walk through the door.  After a long (and exhausting) day at school, having to walk in the door and be “on duty” to perform for their parents to produce a full report is tough.  Often, their answer of “fine” isn’t meant to be disrespectful, it’s an accurate summary of how they viewed their day.  They just don’t have the energy to pull anything else out of their brain at that moment.

Instead, parents need to take the pressure off.  They should simply greet their children and welcome them home, giving them the space they need to unwind after a long day.  After the child has come to realize they can emotionally relax without the pressure to deliver a full, detailed report to their parents, they can begin to process the events of the day for themselves.

Next, after some time has passed, parents should ask specific questions.  A day at school is so busy and full that it’s hard for a child to “tell me about your day.”  It’s overwhelming to pick out a few things that happened.  Instead, providing more scaffolding for their thoughts will help them pare down the events of the day.

Finally, it can take awhile to get the whole family out of the “How was your day?” habit.  Even if parents stop asking the question, children may still anticipate it for quite some time and walk through the door, ready to be on the offensive.  These children may need more help believing that the pressure is truly off and can be convinced through some no-pressure one-on-one time with parents – Legos, a board game, make-believe.  In these fun, personalized play sessions kids will begin to share their thoughts and feelings, allowing parents to finally understand what happened all day at school.