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Talking about school with your children

It has been about  5 weeks since the new school year started.  You as the parents may start to wonder how things have been at school for your children.  “How was school?”, you might hear yourselves asking your children this question over the past few weeks.   Most articulate primary school children are happy to tell you about their day at school.   However, if you have teenage children, this is a different story.

I notice that my teenage son has not been as eager to share with me about his school days as when he was in primary school.  ” How was school?” , I would ask.   “OK”, he would answer.  ” What did you do?”, I ask again.  ” Not much.”, or sometimes “stuff”, he would answer, and again with no further detail.  “what kind of stuff?”, ” You know, boring stuff!”, he would answer.  So we seem to go round and round in our topic of conversation but get nowhere far.

It is hard talking about school with your teenagers.  However, it is important that we talk with our children about the school day for the following reason.

Talking about school shows you are interested of what is going on  in your child’s life.  It shows that your value school and education and encourage them to value it too.  Such interest helps  improve your child’s mental health and happiness and well being.  It can have a positive effect on their behaviour and achievement.  Often, teenagers feel their school experiences are private and don’t want to share with their parents.  This is a normal development for children at this age as they try to shape their own identities separate from their parents’.  Despite this, your child needs to know you are there when they want to talk.  Talking is also a way of connecting with your child and be in touch with their feelings about school.  This is the time when you are more likely to feel that something is not going well at school and find the way to work on overcoming challenges together with your child.

Strategies to help with talking with your child about school:

  1. Give your child time to wind down after school first by greeting him/her to let him/her know you are glad to see him/her home.
  2. Don’t talk about school topic for a while.  Allow this transition time without your interference.  When you notice he/she relaxes a bit and is ready to be social enough, then you may pick a good moment and open the conversation simply by asking the following specific questions:    ” What was the fun thing you did today?”; ” what did you like best today?; ” Who did you play/talk to at school?”; ” What subject did you do today?”; “What did you buy or take for lunch?”

3. Remember to  ask open-ended questions and listen attentively without judgement and keep the conversation neutral.  Some days your teenager may not want to share or may be the moment is not right for him/her.  That’s OK too.

Looking out for signs of problems:

Your child may not always want to let you know he/she is having a tough time (no matter how good your relationship with your child is).  If you feel this out of  your child’s character, you might be right.  There might be a bigger problem.  If you are worried, try talking to other adults who know your child well.  Contact the school or other professionals to get help if needed.

Back to my teenage son.  At the end of last year, I received a letter from the school with a brief message asking me to be at the school on the certain time of the certain day for him. I started to get worried.  In the end my anxiety became too much for me. I picked up the phone and called the school asking about why I was required to be there.  ” Oh, we have the award ceremony on that day and your son is one of the winners and we would like the parents of the award recipients to be there.  The reason we did not mention this in the letter because we want this to be a surprise to your son”.  Much to my relief!

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