Are you talking about school?

I know you receive a lot of communication about how you can be involved in your child’s education through volunteering at school, but even more important is how involved you are at home. Volunteering in the classroom is wonderful, but research shows that supporting your child’s education at home is even more important.

The easiest way to do that is to talk about school. Look over the work that your child brings home. Have them share classroom work and homework with you as well as any notes sent home by the teacher. Talk about what they have in their backpacks, giving them positive reinforcement and showing an interest in the topics they are studying. We ask that the students take the responsibility to compete their homework independently, but reviewing it with them helps to ensure that they understand what is expected and gives them the opportunity to ask for assistance if needed. Reviewing all work that comes home also gives you the opportunity to stay involved and informed about your child’s progress throughout the year.

Talking about the day has great benefits. I’m sure we have all asked the questions, “what did you do today?” or “how was school today?” and have received minimal, if any, monosyllabic answers to our simple questions.

“‘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. You can start discussions with your child by asking questions such as:

  • Describe a book you enjoyed today.
  • Tell me something you learned about today that you would like to know more about.
  • What was the coolest thing that happened today.
  • Did you overcome some obstacle or challenge at school today?
  • What is something that made you feel good at school today?
  • Pretend you are the teacher, how would you describe the day?
  • What is something that made you laugh today?
  • What was the most creative thing you did today?
  • Did you successfully resolve any conflicts today?
  • How were you helpful today?
  • Who was kind or helpful to you today?
  • Did you teacher call on you today?
  • What was the best part about today?

Communicating effectively about school goes deeper than just asking the right questions. 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.

What questions can you ask your child(ren) this week after school?