7 Ways to Get Your Child Talking About School (and Anything Else)
How can you know if your children are doing well at school if they will not talk to you about it? Here are some techniques to help them open up.
“How was your day?”
“Anything interesting happen?”
If that sounds like the after-school conversation in your house, you are not alone. It can be difficult to get children to talk about their day, especially as they get older. And if there are problems, your child may be reluctant to discuss them out of embarrassment or fear of retaliation. However, there are ways to help them open up.
It is very common for adolescents and teens to be reluctant to share what went on during their days — that is a normal part of their development. As children go through puberty, their brain chemistry changes and they often become more inwardly focused. This leads them to build stronger social attachments outside the family and, unfortunately, become more critical at home.
In addition, children at this age often try to exercise more control over their lives, and one of the few ways they can do that is by managing communication. However, there are still things you can do to encourage conversation.
Seven ways to help your child talk to you
1. Pick the right time
If you try to initiate a conversation the minute your child jumps in the car or walks in the door, he or she might not be interested in talking. Children need time to decompress and transition from school to home. If you tackle them with questions, they will most likely clam up.
2. Schedule time every day
Set aside at least 10 minutes every day for special bonding time with your children. Spend the time playing a game, reading a book, or doing whatever they enjoy. This helps them feel secure and welcome to talk openly about their day.
3. Ask specific questions
Broad questions invite vague answers. “How was your day,” is likely to get the default response: “fine.” Instead, ask specific, open-ended questions that invite explanation:
- What did you do in art/music class?
- What was the funniest thing that happened at school?
- What was the best thing that happened at school?
- What was the worst thing that happened at school?
4. Ask creative questions
Another good approach is to ask indirect questions that can reveal how your child thinks and feels about others and the world, such as:
- If a reporter asked you to share the worst thing about XX grade, what would say?
- If a genie gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?
- If you could interview anyone, who would you choose? What would want to ask?
- If you won $1 million, what would you do with it?
- If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?
- What is your favorite thing about school?
It is OK if you struggle to think of topics yourself; you are not experiencing the same things your children are. Consider some teen conversation starters to get the dialog going.
5. Take an interest in the things they like
If you want to have more organic conversations with a child, learn about the things he or she enjoys. Whether they like to read comic books, play video games, make homemade glitter slime, style hair, or build rockets, parents who learn about their children’s interests open new avenues for discussion.
6. Become a stealth listener
One way for parents to learn what is going on in their child’s life is to be a fly on the wall.
When you are around your children and their friends — for example, when driving them somewhere — just be quiet and listen to the children talk. You will learn everything you need to have meaningful conversations with them later.
It is best to stay out of the conversation. Be unobtrusive and the kids will probably forget you are there. If you join in, they may clam up.
7. When is it time to seek help?
While it is common for communication to slow down between parents and their tweens or teens, watch for signs of more serious issues. Many young people struggle with stress and emotional problems. Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are on the rise among adolescents. Your child could also have issues with bullying at school, online, or through private texts.
If you suspect something of this nature, it may be time to involve the school. Talk to your child’s teachers and get their opinions. They may have special insight into his or her behavior. Also consider talking to a guidance counselor, and, if needed, get a recommendation for professional counseling. Never let serious problems fester on the hope they will just go away.
American Heritage School has information and resources that can help get your children to open up about school or anything else. Visit our website to make an appointment or schedule a tour.