Opening the Lines of Communication

By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Here are a few tips to enhance communication between you and your child:

  • Spend time together. At times, finding a moment alone with your child may seem impossible between your busy work and school schedules, extracurricular activities and homework time. However, children may not feel comfortable talking about their problems at the dinner table or in front of their siblings. Seek opportunities to spend time with your child outside of the house. Whether you are shopping, playing a sport together or going out for ice cream, your child may let their guard down when the two of you are simply enjoying one another's company.
  • Ask the right questions. Instead of asking questions that warrant one-word answers (How was school? or Did you have a good day?), try phrasing your questions in a way that encourages your child to elaborate (What was the best part of your day? or What did you like about school today?). And don't stop there. When your child answers that he or she enjoyed an experiment performed in science class, ask why. Listen attentively. If children feel that their parents are truly interested their lives, they will be more likely to talk to them about the good as well as the bad.
  • First, just listen. Children who are struggling in school may feel extremely uneasy discussing the topic, so if a child does open up, the first and most important thing to do is listen. Acknowledge his or her feelings. Don't offer words of wisdom or immediately formulate a plan to solve the problem. Simply listen to your child in order to better understand. Showing empathy will make your child feel more comfortable and less ashamed.
  • Remember to praise. While it is natural for parents to be disappointed with poor grades, frequent discussions about their children's failures in school can be damaging to their self esteem and motivation. Addressing such problems is important, but more vital is the plan forward. Work with your child to define steps to help him or her, and remember to take frequent notice of your child's successes and improvements along the way, no matter how small. Doing so will reinforce hard work, provide encouragement and boost your child's confidence.
  • Face problems sooner rather than later. Ignoring the warning signs that your child is struggling in school will not make the problem disappear. If you rarely see your child working on homework, offer your help. If the end of a semester has passed and your child has not produced a report card, request to see it. Stay in touch with your child's teacher and school to ensure you are aware of any issues that your child may not be sharing with you. When problems do crop up, seek tutoring or other help.

Learning to communicate with your child is a process that takes commitment and practice. By cultivating a relationship of trust, understanding and openness, you are encouraging your child to turn to you for help in school and in other areas of his or her life.

If your child is struggling in school, call Huntington today. We will work with you and your child to uncover the root of the problem, helping your child do better in school by tailoring a program that will focus on the areas where he or she needs the most assistance.


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