Let’s Talk: How to Encourage Your Child to Open Up About School

(BPT) - It can be hard to get more than a one-word response when asking kids about school. Many kids don’t want to talk about their day — or don’t know how to. Sometimes they have a hard time recognizing when they’re anxious or worried and putting those feelings into words. But your child’s behavior can give you hints. Be observant and recognize when they seem out of sorts. Open-ended questions like “Did anything worry you today?” can encourage kids to communicate their feelings.

“The goal is to establish open communication with your child so you can know how to best support them during the school year,” says Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., an expert for Understood. Braaten is the director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) and co-director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, both at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Below are a few ways to help your child open up and share their day with you.

Ease Into It

Breaking the ice with a bit of humor can be a nice way to start the conversation. Questions like “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” can help your child feel comfortable. It opens the door for hearing about the other kids at school, getting feedback about the teacher, and hopefully having some much-needed laughs with your child.

Asking “Who did you play with at recess?” or “Did you meet anyone at lunch?” can also help you learn about the kids they like to hang with. Kids often have a hard time making new friends, particularly if they just moved to a new school or struggle with social skills. Talking about classmates can help you brainstorm new ways to talk to other kids.

Praise Their Growth

It’s important to recognize your child’s hard work at school. Asking “Can you show me something you learned today?” can start an engaging conversation about classes. Depending on your child’s age, this could be a great way to spark a conversation with some simple show-and-tell. It also could jump-start a discussion about where your child struggled and may need additional time for homework. If kids are having trouble with certain subjects, families can find more information about how to work with teachers on websites like Understood.org.

Listen to Their Opinions

Once you’ve settled into the school year routine, check in with your child and see how the transition to the new classroom or school is going. Simple questions like “If there’s one thing you could change about your school, what would it be?” can help you understand what’s on your child’s mind.

It’s important for kids to have a support network, particularly when they have a tough day at school. Kids need someone they trust and can talk with in both good times and bad.

See How You Can Help

Let your child know that it’s OK to ask for help. This is especially true for kids who may be struggling with reading, writing, math or staying organized. Broad questions like “Is there anything about school this year that you might need help with?” allow them to decide how they want to be supported. It may be helpful to take notes during these conversations with your child and share your findings with their teacher.

For more resources and information on how you can help your kids with school, visit Understood.org.

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