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School talk might require different approaches

August 21, 2009|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

When your child gets home from school, how do you greet him?

If you ask about homework before the book bag hits the floor, the reaction you get might not be a positive one.

We all need a little break after school or work to unwind, regroup, catch a second wind. Kids especially need that down time, even if it's only 15 minutes, to ease into the evening's activities.

Concerned parents naturally want to know what went on at school during any given day. We love our kids, so we want to become acquainted with their world.

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How we approach them might determine how much information they are willing to share. A wise parent initially focuses on what is important to a child and then moves on to homework and other pressing matters.

Parents might need to figure out different approaches for each of their children.

For instance, a child who is very social might hesitate to answer questions about school but might converse openly about friends. The social child might be willing to talk about classmates' reactions to a lesson. If so, you'll learn the information you seek about the assignment. At the same time, you'll build a relationship with your child -- not tear it down.

A child who is active might be willing to give a play-by-play of recess or a detailed description of the teacher calling him up front to write something on the board. (Children often view writing on the board as a privilege.) The description of the activity probably will include something about the content being covered. Once again, you know what is being learned, and it is being shared with you in a way that makes your child feel comfortable.

Sometimes a child who appears quiet and shy is merely seeking a way to express what he is feeling. Parents can help by relating stories of their school days.

For example, if your child is working with a group on a science lab, share about a time when you and your friends learned an interesting concept while working on a similar project. Talk about how you handled the dynamics of your group. Was someone trying to take control? Was someone reluctant to participate? How did you handle those situations? Hearing about your experiences might help your child share what he or she is going through.

Help your children develop age-appropriate independence. When children discuss a problem or an issue with you, give advice but first find out what they are thinking. Ask them what they think should be done or what they plan to do about the situation. Then ask if they think that is the best response. Parents who tackle tough discussions in a nonthreatening way often gain the trust and respect of their children.

When we are patient and approach our children in love, we learn much about their days, their friends and their dreams.

This approach takes a little thought and planning, but it is well worth the effort.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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