Parents: Get your kids to open up about school

As a college student, I’m finally at a point where I can retrospectively look at my relationship with my parents. All the driving lessons, the holidays, the college trips, the vacations(the list of landmarks go for miles). I can appreciate my time with them now more than ever — especially knowing that not every kid is as fortunate to enjoy two parents’ presence.

But in glossing over how our relationship has evolved, I can’t ignore the rocky points of (mis)communication. For one reason or another, car rides went silent and some dinner time conversations couldn’t have been shorter if we were eating alphabet soup.

Most of our conversations after work and school are routine and ordinary. But since the classroom is a serious and sometimes stressful place that physically separates students from parents for most of the day, we should pay more attention to how we talk about school. Whether your child is in elementary school, secondary or getting situated in college, these tips will help avoid the silence.

“How was school?”


Anything interesting happen?

Not really.

This is how most parent-student conversations go — if you’re a boring parent! Tap into what interests them: sports, TV, what their friends are up to. Pay attention to small attitude cues and shift the conversation toward school organically. Truth: sometimes school and life are actually fine, and the day was monotonous and remiss of any interesting phenomenon. But more often, there’s a compelling narrative developing on their teachers or friend group. Be like a journalist and find an area of their life they don’t mind talking about (for your sake and theirs). They’re at school all the time,so try not to pander to them like their teachers do.

“Back in my day…”

If you’re having trouble relating, just start talking about the humorous/eye-opening/dumb experiences you went through at their age. Yes, they may roll their eyes and yes, you are separated by a generation of high-speed internet and just being (kind of) old. But as movies like Dazed and Confused showed us, there were some cool aspects of not having smartphones.

The key is to be honest and self-deprecating. Show them that adults are actually the same as teenagers who have learned some crucial life lessons but have the same personality (along with new joint pains). We don’t admit it, but there’s a genuinely endearing element to the well-timed “Dad Joke”. Just please avoid doing the whip and/or nae-nae.

Letting arguments get ugly.

It’s easy for a miscommunication to turn into pointing fingers about completely unrelated problems. Don’t let an argument about chores or who-gets-the-car or having-an-attitude turn into a shouting match about how “this is why your grades are suffering!”

Kids are smart. They’ll eventually realize that it’s much easier to avoid talking about school if your first instinct is to attack them on it. Make it a point to always be open about whatever they want to rant on.


That’s basically it, folks. Just as adults sometimes don’t want to talk about work, students don’t want to talk about endless geometry problem sets or their GPA. But in the off-chance that something’s bugging them about their social life or a more troubling academic subject, make sure you’re equipped to talk on their terms. Good luck.

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