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Talking to your child about school not only shows that you care about education, but it also helps you keep tabs on how well your child is doing.
But some children aren’t talkers. Other children might talk a lot about some things, but might be hesitant to share their feelings. Getting them to open up will take extra work and patience.
Here are a few good tips on how to get the conversation started.
If you ask a yes-or-no question, you will likely get a yes-or-no answer. Try asking open-ended questions that require more of a response. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” try, “What was your favorite part of today?”
Pay attention to things like school fliers or emails from teachers to get ideas for conversation starters. For example, if there was a special assembly, you can ask how it went.
Everybody is different. Some children are ready to talk the minute they walk through the door, but some children need a little time to recharge their batteries first. If your child is hesitant to open up after school, try again after dinner or before bedtime. Some children will be willing to spill their guts just to avoid bedtime! Make some time in your daily routine for talking, whether it is in the car or when you are tucking your child in. If you can make it a habit early on, it will make it easier to talk as your child gets older.
Welcome your children home like you would like to be welcomed. Nobody wants to be grilled about their to-do list the minute they walk through the door. The first thing out of your mouth should not be, “Do you have homework?” When your children come home, let them know right away that you are happy to see them. Then take some time to reconnect. Make your home an enjoyable and safe place they are excited to come back to.
Even when our children do open up a little, it isn’t always easy to find out what is at the root of the problem. For example, when children say they hate school it could be because they are bored, struggling with a subject, having a hard time making friends, or are being bullied.
You will need to be patient, observant, and willing to ask follow-up questions to get at the root of the problem. Older children may be unwilling to talk about what is bothering them. Respect their space but let them know you are there if they need you.
If you are able to pinpoint the problem, be careful not to rush in and solve everything for your child. Be respectful of your child’s feelings. If you go marching into school every time there is a problem, your child might be nervous about confiding in you.
Instead work with your child on coming up with solutions. Little children might need more help than older ones. Talk about solutions and what the outcome might be. Express confidence in your children and their ability to solve their own problems.
You also want to be careful not to belittle your child’s feelings or fears. For their stage of development, what they are experiencing is as important as many of your grownup problems.
One potential reason that children may hesitate to confide in you is the fear of getting in trouble. Setting some ground rules for serious conversations is a good way to help alleviate that fear.
Brainstorm with your children about what those rules should be. Allowing them to participate in creating the environment will help them feel safer confiding in you. And no matter what, never break the rules.
The more you show your children that they can tell you anything and you will follow the rules, the more likely they will come to you when there are truly serious issues.
With many schools moving to a hybrid schedule, or going completely virtual, your children will be spending several hours per week staring at a computer screen. Set a time where you and your children disconnect from technology.
Mealtimes are perfect for stepping back and reconnecting. If your children don’t want to talk about their day or how they’re feeling, tell them about the funny thing that happened at work or make plans for the weekend.
Once they’re comfortable talking to you about normal everyday things, they may become more receptive to talking about the important things.
As great as it would be, children don’t talk on a schedule. Let your children know that you’re always available to talk if they want to. Then make sure you’re nearby. Sometimes just being in the same room gives them the opportunity to open up.