From the Superintendent's Seat:
Keeping Open the Lines of Communication With Your Children
Effective communication is a critical component of any interpersonal relationship, and parent-child relationships are certainly no exception to that rule.
When your children come home from school, or you come home from work ask them how their day was, and listen -- really listen -- to their answers. What are they learning about? Who are their friends in school? What do they like about those friends? What do they like, or dislike, about their teachers and the things they are learning?
When your child becomes a teenager, a more concerted effort may become necessary in order to ensure that effective and meaningful communication continues. Not only do the hours of separation between parents and kids tend to increase at this age, but as children get older, they strive for autonomy and independence -- a natural part of development -- and often embrace new ideas and attitudes. They may discuss their views openly in school and with their friends, but be less forthcoming once they’re back at home. If parents are willing to take the initiative and exercise a little creativity, there are ways to ensure that communication continues through middle and high school.
One good way to get a conversation going is to ask your son or daughter for an “interview.” You might begin by posing a few questions and inviting your child to come up with his or her own questions in return. A starting point might be to focus on your child’s favorite subject, favorite movie, favorite food, favorite music and other current likes and dislikes, then compare them to your own favorites or what you liked or disliked when you were the same age. You can explore other ideas of your own, and ask what topics he or she would like to discuss. Another way to encourage casual conversation is to plan time with your child. Even something as simple as taking a walk together can provide the right climate for informal talk. You may have to push a little to get your son or daughter to agree to set aside the time, but even just a short time will be well spent for both of you.
These are just a couple of ways to convey to your child that you are taking an interest in his or her life, and that you are willing to be candid about your own life as well. Throughout childhood and adolescence, knowing that parents are always willing to listen and to answer questions honestly can prove invaluable in keeping the lines of communication open.#
Carole Hankin is the Superintendent of Syosset Schools in Long Island, NY