My six-year-old son never talks about school and I wonder if this is okay. Each day I ask him how was school, and each day he avoids the question and says nothing. If I ask the question a few times, he can get annoyed and once said ‘stop talking’ to me.
Should I worry about this? Or just let it go? I work part-time and collect him three days a week, and the other days he is collected by the childminder. It does not matter whether I collect him or not – he still says very little when I ask him later after he has been with the childminder. He only gets a small bit of homework as he is in his first year, and he likes to get that done first thing. He particularly hates talking about his homework as he wants this done and out of the way in his bag.
His teacher says he is relatively quiet in the classroom, but has friends and is working well and learning.
Parents are understandably eager to learn about their child’s school day. Indeed, it is a sign of good parenting that you take an interest in your child’s schooling and that you want to connect with them and learn about what is going on in their world.
However, many children don’t readily share news with their parents about the school day. This could be for lots of reasons. Some children are tired after the school day and just want to relax and do something else. Similar to adults coming in from the office, some children want to switch off and put work behind them.
When you greet him, rather than jumping in to talk first, take a moment to pause and see how he might communicate
Other children simply live in the present and don’t particularly like talking about what has happened previously. They are more interested in what is happening now or what is about to happen. In addition, some children don’t like being questioned about school because they experience questions as putting them under pressure, and even anxiety-provoking. Many children develop a “reflex answer” of shrugging or saying “I don’t know” as a means of avoiding the question or changing the conversation.
Connecting with your son
Rather than having the goal of your son telling you about his school day when you collect him, focus on creating a non-pressured after-school routine, which might give you both time to relax, chat and play together. While each child and family are different, a nice routine might include things like the following.
- Take time to listen as you walk home (or arrange a walking game such as “I spy” on the journey)
- Have a healthy snack at the table when you get in
- Arrange 15 minutes of play together, letting him choose the game
- Homework time
- Solo play where he chooses a relaxing activity to play by himself
A good routine will give you time to connect with and talk to your son. It is during these times that he is most likely to talk about school, to share any worries he has and to let you know about anything that is on his mind. Like the bedtime and morning routines, creating a good after-school routine is the bread and butter of good parenting.
Modifying your language
You can also help your son communicate more by modifying how you talk to him. When you greet him, rather than jumping in to talk first, take a moment to pause and see how he might communicate. Watch carefully his body language to observe what he is feeling and what he might need. Some children start off being a little silent after school and then chat more after a few minutes (perhaps after a big hug from Mum or Dad.) Rather than asking direct questions, you can start by making comments about what is happening. For example, “I see lots of the boys were wearing football jerseys today” or “I heard a fireman visited the school” or “Ms J said you had a crafts today”. Then wait and see how your son responds to these openings.
The more you know about the specifics of your son’s school day, the easier it will be to chat
If you do ask questions, avoid vague general ones such as “How was school today?” and ask specific ones such as “How was soccer today during PE?” You can also help your son to talk more by first focusing on the parts of school he likes. For example, rather than just asking about homework, you can ask him first about sports, crafts or friends, or whatever else he loves most in the school day.
Talk to the school
To learn about how your son is getting on at school, listen carefully to all the communications from the school. As well as talking to the teacher and principal, lots of schools put information up about the school day and curricula on the website, and some organise information sessions and meetings for entry-year parents.
The more you know about the specifics of your son’s school day, the easier it will be to chat. For example, if you hear from the teacher that he likes doing crafts on Tuesday or that he has made friends with another child, he is more likely to talk about these things when you ask specifically.