So … how was school?

Wow! Where did the summer go?  It’s hard to believe that for most kids, tomorrow is back-to-school day.  And for those children beginning brand new ventures –  first day in preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school – where did the  the years  go?

During this season,  I remember so vividly the feelings I had of excitement and apprehension, building up to that first day of school – both when I was the young school girl myself and even later as a mom of school-aged children.  Now, as someone who talks with many parents daily, I share their anticipation, nervousness and joy as their children go off, for some of them, on their first solo flights.

One of the disappointments, however,  I hear from parents from day one throughout the school years is the lack of information or news that their child is willing to share.  Parents report their conversations go something like this, if they even get them to answer.

“How was school today?”  “Fine.”

“So, what did you do?”  “Not much.”

“Did you have fun?” “Yeah, I guess.”

Anyone who has a child in school has probably experienced this type of exchange.

So, parents often begin to worry and to imagine the worst.  He doesn’t really like it.  He’s behind all the other kids in social skills.  She’s bored.  She doesn’t have any friends. We should have sent her to our neighborhood school.

My son, a teenager at the time, used to tease me when I’d ask too many questions. “You’re just not in the loop anymore, Mom.”   And, in a way, that’s the truth.  So, we need to be patient – because the tale of what’s happening in your child’s life at school takes time to unfold.

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when wishing your child had more to share.

Give your child a chance to transition.  Don’t pounce and expect him to be ready to answer your questions about school the minute you see him, no matter how excited you might be.  Think, “greet not grill”.  Just be happy and excited in welcoming your child home, offering a healthy snack (children will be famished, blood sugar low, so be prepared for orneriness).  Unwinding, regrouping and reconnecting will happen during this transition time and slowly your child will reappear.

Give your child the space to talk.  Interesting tidbits of information usually sneak out as the day wears on – when you’re doing something together, when the emphasis is no longer so focused.  So when you’re doing dishes and your child’s coloring at the table, or you’re taking a walk together, sitting by the tub while your child soaks, driving in the car to do an errand, saying good night – that’s when you’ll hear what happened during lunch, or about the story they read during library time or the girl she sat next to at lunch –  without even asking.

So, once your child starts talking, listen!   Don’t jump in too quickly or offer judgment on what’s being said.  Even if your son is saying, “I don’t like Jimmy.  He’s mean” – wait, rather than say that’s not nice to say.  If you want a little more info, how about saying something like,  “Really?  Sounds like he makes you angry”.  Then, there’s the space your child needs in order to fill in the details.

Eating together (sans television) is always a perfect place for sharing the news of the day.  Rather than questioning your child, why not tell about your day, about what happened to you on the way to work or what trouble the dog caused now.  I’m willing to bet that will definitely result in your child dying to tell you about what happened in his day also.

Having the whole family share their “grumblies and gratefuls” is fun and gets everyone sharing.  What made you grumbly today and what made you happy  helps put the day into perspective for everyone.

And if  any of you out there are wondering  how long this goes on,  think of me next week when my son begins grad school.  I’ll be curious to know how he likes it!

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