TALKING WITH YOUR CHILD
All it takes is 15 minutes a day to open up the lines of communication with your child. Talking and listening to your child everyday will result in your child coming to you for advice and help with difficult choices and decisions. When you talk with your child it sends the message that you care about them and what they do and you are always there to support them. It is important to begin talking with your child NOW during the elementary years – this will help when your child enters the “teen” years when communication becomes more difficult. Getting your child to take part in a meaningful conversation, particularly about school, may be one of your biggest challenges, but it is also 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.
Check out these Conversation Starters from iMom
How to listen so your child will talk:
- Stay informed about your child’s life at school. Read the school’s newsletter and 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. He/she may need a break from school talk right after being there all day. Instead, let him have a snack and relax a bit and he/she 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. 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 him/her.
- 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 homework and schoolwork. If you start the conversation by sharing something about your own day, this may encourage our child to share something about his/her day without even having to ask!
- Don’t talk about only homework and grades. Chances are this is the last thing your child wants to talk about. 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, she may feel like you are nagging her rather than being supportive and showing interest in her school life.
- Ask for details. If you ask a question that can be responded to with a “yes” or “no”, that is all you will get. Instead try something meaningful that is more probing and that elicits an opinion, thought, or idea on the part of your child. If you ask meaningful questions, 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 part of the homework.
- Give your child your full attention. When you sit down to talk, make sure there are not any interruptions and give your child your full attention. Don’t answer the phone or watch anything on TV.
- Avoid interrupting. Letting your child finish what he wants to say shows that you care about what he has to say.
- Give nonverbal encouragement. Lean forward and make eye contact, nod occasionally, say “uh-huh” or “mmm”, and smile when appropriate to let your child know that you are interested in what they are saying.
- Find a time and place to talk. When your child approaches you to talk but you cannot right at that moment, let your child know “now is not the right time, but it is important that we talk”. Set a time and place to talk later, when you can give the full attention it deserves and make sure to follow through.