Between work and school, afterschool activities and errands, it can be difficult to find the time to sit one-on-one, parent and child, to talk school. Yet keeping in close touch on all school matters – social, emotional and academic – is one of the most important ways to be sure that your child is on track and getting the most out of the academic experience. Kevin Chung, a school counselor agrees, “Parents have the most influence in helping their children to make positive choices, in life and in school.” Here are some expert ideas for staying in touch with your children about school.

  • Share a meal together, every day. It’s doesn’t have to be dinner – it can be a bowl of cereal at breakfast, or even a cup of cocoa before bed. Turn off your cell phones, the computer, the television, and the to-do list that runs through your mind, set aside the magazines, the mail. Focus on listening first, give your child, as well as yourself, time to digest what’s been said, then offer your own thoughts and advice, if you deem them necessary. Sometimes kids just want a parent to listen, and nothing more. The key: Be a good listener above all.
  • Be familiar with your child’s teachers, classmates, and school personnel. Join the P.T.A. Attend open houses and introduce yourself to other parents. Volunteer your time and talents – schools welcome parent help with wide open arms and you’ll have a chance to experience the environment that your child lives in every school day.
  • Check your child’s assignment notebooks and read through some of his textbooks, so you can ask current questions on academic subjects and think of ideas to support learning outside of school.
  • Do your kids tend to clam up when you ask them about their school lives? Ask them their opinion on something to get the conversation going: Kids – especially pre-teens and teens – love sharing their opinions and having their voices heard.
  • Never ask yes/no questions. Ask questions that invite thoughts, opinions, and long-winded answers.
  • If your child is encountering a problem at school, ask the most simple question of all: How can I help? Sometimes parents tend to formulate their own solution strategies without the input of the key player in the situation – the child.
  • Acknowledge how appreciative you are that your child shared his feelings with you, and remind him that he can always come to you (or Dad, or Aunt Betty, or Cousin Ted) whenever he has a problem or concern. Teach your kids that bottling up worries or feelings isn’t necessary – that it helps to bring things out into the open.

Get the Conversation Going on School – Some Questions to Ask Your Kids

  • If you could change three things about your school, what would you change?
  • Who is considered the friendliest kid in your class? Why? What qualities do you think make a good friend?
  • What would you do if you saw or heard someone making fun of another kid in your school?
  • Who has been your favorite teacher so far? Why?
  • What qualities do you think make a good teacher?
  • What qualities do you think make a good student?
  • What have you done in school (or school-related sport or activity) that you are most proud of this year?
  • How much TV do you think you should be allowed to watch per day? How much time do you think you should be allowed to play video games? Do you think that watching too much tv/playing to many video games affects your schoolwork? Why or why not?
  • Name three things we could do, as a family, to help you succeed in school.