How to talk to your child about school related issues
Under the best of circumstances, school can create stress for both a parent and their child. As children grow in their independence, parents can feel more and more out of touch. Report cards and parent conferences are a good tool to assess progress intermittently but often that doesn’t feel like enough. In our current pandemic climate, this feeling of stress is compounded as parents’ concerns grow over what has been missed both socially and academically.
Very often, a parents first response is to go directly to their child to evaluate how they are doing. Parents often find themselves questioning their child about their day, their friendships and their work. Quite often and regardless of age, these questions are met with resistance or at the least unclear answers. This can result in a pattern of frustration for both the parent and the child. While these obstacles can present frustration there are simple practical solutions parents can implement to regain some control and stay informed.
5 strategies for communicating with your child about school:
Be mindful about how and when you ask your child questions about school and their day.
Parents very often greet their children by asking questions about their day. In an eagerness to see how our children are doing, sometimes we unintentionally cause them to shut down. No one likes to be interrogated about their day the moment they walk in the door. Oftentimes it takes time to process and decompress after a long day, even if it was a good day! Instead of launching an investigation….FLIP THE SCRIPT. Tell your child a story about your day, something funny that happened to you or something special you want them to know. Very often sharing something about your day will result in your child sharing something about their day as well.
Be informed about how to get information from your child’s school.
Many schools have platforms for accessing information. Are you connected? Make sure you are reading the communication coming from your child’s school so you can be informed about important dates and other relevant information. Early on in the school year, attend meetings and conferences to best understand the expectations for your child and what type of communication you can expect. Many older children are connected to powerschool which can give up to date information regarding grades and performance. You can even set up powerschool to send you notifications when grades are entered.
Create habits that keep you informed.
Establish regular times to review your child’s work and get an update on what’s going on. When this is part of your routine it is likely that it will be met with less resistance. Depending on your child’s age and experience in school this meeting may be daily or weekly. Look for patterns and themes in these meetings to determine if additional support is needed or further teacher communication.
For older children establish limits for when you get involved.
Developmentally, school aged children are working to establish independence. This is good! Be careful not to discourage this by being overly involved! Be sure that you are clear with your older school age children about your expectations, gain their input on what their own expectations are. Allow your child to have independence up until the point that they fail to meet those agreed upon expectations. For example, you can agree with your child that as long as they maintain a certain average you will allow them to be independent in their school work.
Be on the lookout for warning signs.
Every child is unique and as parents we are the best expert on our children. Be aware of any behavior that is out of the ordinary for your child and over time evaluate if this is something that you need to intervene with. Be mindful that small changes in behavior are to be expected as part of normal growth and development.
As parents, we want the very best for our children. Allowing our children to grow in independence can be challenging for a variety of reasons. It is possible and likely that they will fail and be disappointed. Very often, parents, in all their best intentions, intervene prior to the disappointing event in an effort to protect them from this anticipated hurt. We know that growing in independence requires failure and disappointment. As parents, we need to be brave enough to allow our children to grow in independence and develop the skills to live a full life without us! If your child needs help processing their emotions or an event that has happened, please reach out for our child centered therapy.