Improving parent-student communication

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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 family members.

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?

Mutual respect

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.

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