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Talking With Your Child About School

 

Q. I don't want to give my son the third degree. But I'd like to get a little more out of him than a grunt when I ask him what he learned in school that day. How?

 

   Put your relationship with your child first, and your need for information second.

 

   Put yourself in your child's shoes. You don't like to be "grilled," and neither does your child. So don't do it.

 

   Make sure to educate yourself about schools today. They are different from when you were in school. Learn about standards, grading, testing, curriculum, technology, and the host of other important issues, so that you know what you're talking about. Read articles like this one; talk to older and wiser parents; rely on the expertise of the educators in your child's school and within your social sphere. The more you know, the more you can help your child.

 

   Don't make statements, don't judge, and certainly don't freak out or condemn. Try to be like Socrates: don't lecture, but just ask questions, and let your child's answers do the teaching for you both.

 

   Be smart about transitions and timing. Let your child hang up her coat, relax, unwind, have a snack and so something else for a few moments before you try to engage him or her in conversation.

 

   Conversations often go better when you are side by side with your child, not facing him or her. That can come off as too confrontational.

 

   Natural conversations also tend to take place while you are multitasking. So instead of making the conversation the focal point, do something together with your child. Assign your child a tub of socks to sort while you fold laundry, and visit while you're at it, or have your child tear lettuce for a dinner salad while you cook, and talk then.

 

   Remember the 80/20 rule: make the first 80% of your communication positive or neutral, before you address the 20% that might put pressure or stress on your child.

 

   Tell your child a little something about YOUR day, first. If it's funny, so much the better. Put your child at ease and in the mood of swapping stories, and in that context, you're likely to get better-quality information.

 

   Generalized questions may draw a blank and put your child on the spot. Instead, be as specific as you can. Instead of asking, "How was your day?" ask "Did you get a chance to do that experiment in science class that you were looking forward to?"

 

   Remember, asking about test scores and grades puts heavy pressure on your child and can create performance anxiety, which may slam shut the door of communication. Instead, ask what your child learned and what was surprising or enjoyable in class that day, or, conversely, what was the worst part of the day.

 

Homework: Here's a really good "short course" on talking with your child about school:

 

www.pbs.org/parents/goingtoschool/twk_tips.html

 

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Parental Involvement 10 2008

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