Is THIS On Your Back-to-School List?

Remember to . . .
Ask my child how he or she feels about going back to school.

Father Son Listening-2

It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of “outfitting” your child with all the latest and greatest school supplies. New clothes, shoes, coats, jackets, boots, backpacks, gloves, hats, binders, pens and pencils, new glasses, and the most up-to-date devices.

Of course, all schools require certain items and supplies. But don’t overlook the most important thing you can do for your child as that first day of school approaches — take the time to connect and to ask the question . . .

How do you feel about going back to school this year?

Don’t make it a huge deal, like saying, “Hey, we really need to sit down and talk.” What your kid translates that to is, “Time for another lecture.” (Can’t wait.)

This is about giving your child the opportunity to share with you what it is they’re excited about, anxious about, confused about or scared about.

Mom listening to daughterNo matter how well you think you know your child (or anyone), the only way for you to know what’s going on inside their head is for them to tell you. And in order for that to happen you must listen — really listen — unconditionally and actively.

Remember – when you’re listening, you’re learning. When you’re talking, you’re not learning about them. Learning about them is the goal here.

It could go something like this . . .

“Well, it looks like we have just about everything you need for school this year. If there is something you find you need that we forgot, or didn’t know about, we can go get it later. Each year, when we do this, it always takes me back to when I got ready for school, and how it felt. I always had mixed feelings about the whole first-day-of-school thing. What about you? How do you feel about going back to school this year?”

Father Daughter Listening

Now this is where you go into your listening mode. Just be quiet. Most likely, there’ll be silence at first. Let the question hang there. Again, you have no idea what’s going through your kid’s mind, all the thoughts and feelings they’re attempting to sort out, especially if you’ve never asked this before.

If no reply is forthcoming, make it okay. Say something like, “It’s okay if you don’t have anything to tell me right now. Tell me later if you think of something you’d like to talk about.”  If it feels appropriate and timely, share something specific about how you felt going back to school. Keep it short and in a “matter of fact” kind of tone and stay with a feeling. Such as . . .

“I remember how I felt so excited to see my one friend who was gone for the whole summer.”  Or . . .
“I was always so anxious, scared even, about my new teacher, and if they’d like me.” Or . . .
“I’d get so uptight about being late for class, or forgetting where I was supposed to go to next.”  Or . . .
“I really was happy to have the time to talk with my friends.” Or . . .
“I started a new school, and was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends.”

End it with something like, “Those were definitely fun and crazy times for me.” and then just leave it there. The main thing is that you’ve opened the door for your child to share with you.  It may happen right then or at a later time. If later, just be ready to switch into listening mode.

Listening mode looks and sounds like . . .

Your child shares something with you they have strong feelings about.
You say, “I see. Tell me more.”
They tell you some more.
You say, while affirmatively nodding your head, “Hmmm, is there more?”
There’s more.
You say, “Wow, I can see why you feel that way.”
There’s still more which includes the desire for some type of solution.
You say, “So how will you handle it?” or “What will you do?” or “How can I help?”

Mother hugging teenage son as he packs for collegeIf there’s an issue or problem to address, don’t you be the one solving it. Guide your child in figuring it out and solving it on their own. Give assistance when asked, but not from a place where you feel they’re helpless. They are totally capable.

Initiating this dialogue will go a long way in helping your child feel confident. They’ll feel safe in talking, and expressing their feelings. And now, you’ve invited this type of sharing for the days and weeks to come. You’ve deliberately opened the door.

So grab that back-to-school “to do” list and make sure you have on it, “Take the time to connect with my child” – you can list it more than once.

It’s all about the relationship.

As always, please leave a comment in the space below and share this within your own social media network if you are so moved.

And keep asking yourself, “If I approached my parenting as seriously as I do my profession, what would I be doing to improve my skill, and get better results?”

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