How Was School?

If your child or teenager is like most, they hate that question. It is the quintessential question that parents ask their kids and I’d like to offer you a few pointers if the response you get to that question is, “Fine.”

As parents, you want to stay informed and connected, and it’s important to know what’s happening because a lot happens at school. Your kids are working on a host of academic, personal and relational goals while they’re at school. Here’s how to deepen that conversation:

1.) Follow their lead.

I find that children and teenagers rarely open up with parents in the context of parents sitting down and trying to have a conversation with them. It’s at times like those that you get one-word answers, if any at all. As soon as you pick your child up from school they’re likely tired from the day and they often don’t have the energy or desire to re-hash the day’s events.

By following their lead, you’re getting information about school when they’re ready to talk. This often looks like a comment made in isolation. For example, you’re sitting in the car and without being asked your child offers, “I think I failed my math test,” or “Mrs. Anderson is so mean.” That’s an opening for you to say, “Tell me more,” or “I know math has been challenging lately.” By following your child’s lead, validating their feelings, and using reflective listening you’ll get a lot of information.

2.) Use statements not questions.

Another helpful technique for getting children and teenagers to open up is by showing you care and are informed by making thoughtful comments instead of by asking questions. For example, if you know you’re child had a math test at school, being able to say, “I sure hope that test went well,” invites more conversation that if you say, “How was the math test?” The comment shows that you remember and care without placing the stressful demands of a question on your child that perhaps he/she doesn’t want to answer.

3.) Don’t pry.

Maybe your child doesn’t want to talk about the math test – that’s okay. The more you allow your child to open up on their own terms, the more they will open up. Prying or forcing information is likely to shut-down communication and be stressful for your child. As always, it’s important to validate and respect when your child doesn’t feel like talking. We do this not by just dropping the conversation but by being more explicit about respecting their space. For example, “That’s totally fine if you don’t want to talk about it. I’m here if you change your mind.”

If you’re having trouble communicating with your child or adolescent, please know that help is available. I really enjoy helping parents improve their relationships with their children. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your particular situation and would love to help!

2400 Las Gallinas Ave. Suite 265
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 234-3774

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