Do you find your student stoic at times and reticent to talk about their
school day? Even though it may be tough to talk to your student, keeping
the lines of communication open is vital to maintaining a cohesive family
unit. There are ways in which you can encourage communication or create
the prefect conditions for sharing thoughts.
Timing is everything
Trying to talk to students after they get home from school can be counterproductive.
They are usually tired and, after a long day, they need to unwind before
they’re ready to talk about their school day. There is the danger
of your student retreating to their room for the evening, so it’s
a good idea to plan a family activity for a couple of hours after the
end of the school day. This can include dinner, eating out, movie night
or a family outing. Eating together at a table away from the TV helps
to create an atmosphere conducive to discussions.
Take the time to listen
As parents, our natural instinct is to advise and comment on everything
our students say. But set aside some time to simply listen. If your students
feel like they can talk to you without judgement, they are more likely
to do so. Of course it’s your job to advise, but create a space
in your lives where it’s all about them. This can be an activity
every week were you and your student spend time together away from other
Janet Russell, mom of three, recalls her special relationship with her
dad; “I came from a family of four girls and every Sunday morning,
my dad would take one of us out to breakfast. We did tons of things together
as a family, but I really cherished those Sundays when it was my time
to spend alone with him. It made me feel like he really wanted to know
what was happening in my life.”
Being a good listener is the best way to contribute to a constructive conversation.
Ask the right questions
If your student doesn’t like to talk about school, try to ask specific
questions rather than general ones like ‘how was your day?’
Here are some examples:
- Who sits with you in class?
- What did you do during recess? Who did you have lunch with?
- What are you looking forward to this week?
- What did you eat for lunch?
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- What was your least favorite part of the day?
Even though a teenager may experience emotions or options that are extreme,
showing respect for these emotions and opinions makes them feel heard
and understood. They are more likely to respect your decisions and opinions
when you respect theirs. Of course you don’t have to agree with
each other, but validating and recognizing each other’s feelings
will set the stage for positive and constructive conversations.