It’s a conversation as old as time. “How was your day at school today?” Good. “What did you get up to?” Nothing much. “Well, something must have happened?” Can’t remember.
Cue frustration from parents. For parents, nothing is worse than that feeling of being totally in the dark about what is happening at school. With parent-teacher interviews being scheduled across most schools in the coming weeks, there are sure to be plenty of questions from parents desperate to find out exactly what goes on at school. We’ve scoured the web for strategies from experts about how to generate that elusive after-school chat that teachers might find helpful to share with parents, as well as exploring why kids go into shutdown mode after school. After all, teachers work damn hard to give kids and teenagers the best school experience they can, it would be great if kids could shout it from the rooftops!
We know you’re busy. Keep reading for more on our exploration on encouraging after-school communication or click through to our website for a quick video that shows how School Stream keeps parents in the loop.
Kids and teenagers need a moment to transition from being at school all-day
Sometimes just understanding how kids and teens might be feeling after a big day at school can be helpful for parents to understand the absence of after-school intel. It’s possible they might just need a gentle reminder of how they feel after a long day at work.
Ask them to imagine a day like this: Photocopiers have jammed at crucial moments, clients or colleagues have been rude, your umbrella broke just as it started raining. At this point, there’s probably nothing you wouldn’t do just to get home and sit on the couch with a cup of tea in silence for five minutes while you decompress. Instead, your partner has 100 questions for as soon as you walk through the door. “How was your day? Did you get a new umbrella? Are you going to report that rude client?” It’s just all too much. You can understand why many adults would go straight into shutdown mode. Why? Because there needs to be a transition period between work and home. We are finally in our safe place (home), but are still feeling bombarded. There’s a possibility kids could be feeling the same. After giving their best all day at school and negotiating the million big and small things that happen to kids and teenagers in an average day, they just need a moment to breathe. In the minds of some kids and teenagers, once they are home, their communication duties are over for the day.
Kids can find a recount of their day boring
While parents may be desperate for any nuggets of intelligence that indicate what our kids have been up to between the hours of 9am-3pm, from a kid’s perspective, it’s just too boring to even contemplate. Been there, done that. They’re ready to move on to the next thing. For teenagers, they may withhold information as a way of asserting their independence and maintaining some privacy, both of which are typical of teen development.
Here is some of the best-researched wisdom from experts that teachers might find helpful to share with parents to encourage some after-school conversation.
- Many parenting experts suggest open-ended questions to help generate some after-school chat. There is certainly no shortage of lists on the internet with alternatives to “How was your day?” It might be worth pointing parents in the direction of one of these online resources to see if there are any alternative questions that might get the conversational ball rolling with their kids.
- Others suggest asking very specific questions. If there is an upcoming excursion your students are very excited about, advise parents and caregivers to focus on that. If your school has a parent communication app, families can use that to glean information about things going on at school and in the classroom to get the after-school chat started. “Did you get to program the Bee-Bots in the STEM room?” For some, the idea that parents already know what is going on at school takes the pressure off and children are relieved to be able to give a few details, rather than needing to fill in all the nitty-gritty.
- Advise parents to give their kids and/or teens some space and an after-school snack before working a few casual questions in. If they start talking, it’s important that parents just let them and resist the temptation to interrupt with questions, all while assuring them they are listening. In other words, parents need to be expert listeners.
- If kids are young, parents may well be able to make the whole thing into a game like “Best, Worst, Most”. The whole family plays and each takes a turn at sharing the best thing that happened during the day, the worst thing that happened during the day, and the thing they are most proud of. As the whole family is playing, it feels more like a level playing field and less like an interrogation. Importantly, it can feel like fun.
- In a similar vein, parents can share everything that happened in their day first. If a full day recount is modelled this for children, they might be more willing to share the details of their day too. What made them laugh, what they were proud of, who they talked to or something interesting they learned.
Have we missed anything? School Stream keeps parents in the loop across the whole of school life. Get in touch and see how we could help your school.