Talking with Kids About SchoolWhy is it so hard to talk about school? Parents often get exasperated with kids’ monosyllabic answers to their simple questions. That one well-intentioned line, “How was school today?” has probably provoked more bad feelings between parents and kids than either party ever intended.
“‘How was school today?’ is a frustrating question for both parents and kids,” notes Michael Thompson, Ph.D., author of “The Pressured Child.” “Parents never get the answer they want and often don’t understand how difficult this question really is. Without meaning to, parents are asking for a summary but kids don’t summarize the way adults do. So most kids just say ‘fine’ or try to avoid the question entirely.” And then the problem escalates. “Many parents will repeat this question if they don’t get a good enough response because they don’t know how else to ask it,” adds Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of “Playful Parenting.”
Fortunately, some simple strategies can get kids and parents talking and listening. “What was fun? What was the worst part of the day? Did your teacher explain that math homework? How did soccer go?”
However, communicating effectively about school goes deeper than just asking the right questions. “What are the goals of talking with kids about school and what is the role of the adult in these conversations?” asks Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College. “More than just finding out how their day was, we want to help kids become problems solvers and independent learners. Good conversations help kids see we care about their lives, that we are there to support them, and to help them develop strategies for solving problems themselves.”