As we begin a new year, I wanted to write a personal note inviting each of you to examine how you interact with your child about school. I would like to think that I am at least somehow in a position to share my experiences, as my son is now 21! He happened to call as I was writing this, and we had a good laugh when I told him what I was doing.
Every day my son came home from school, and I compulsively asked the same questions. It was like a sickness. “How was your day, and how much homework do you have?” This was often followed by, “Did you leave anything at school?” And, my personal favorite, “How was lunch?”
Somehow talking about food made me feel like I was being a good mother, since we battled severe food allergies. My motivation was clearly not just to hear about his day but to plan my evenings and time, as many of you may need to do as well.
I would have hoped as an educator, I would have been even just a little more imaginative in my inquiries. Not surprisingly, our conversations fell into a robotic rut that often left me feeling less than successful as a parent.
Somewhere into my son’s freshmen year of high school, I heard a speaker challenge the audience to ask one simple question of their child when they connected after school, and it was,
“What was the most enjoyable of your day?”
I tried it and wonderful things started to happen. I heard about so many more interesting aspects of my son’s day, than homework and lunch. This question unlocked all sorts of things I really wanted to know but wasn’t asking, such as who were the teachers with whom my son was most connecting and why? What subjects were intriguing to him? Gradually, conversation evolved into a much more natural ebb and flow.
For Type A parents, we often feel the need to check things off a list to budget our evening time, know how to schedule the future, and stay on top of little problems. The issue with that is that a little bit of joy leaves the conversation with this type of agenda.
My challenge to you is to ask yourselves what questions, if any are you asking your kids? The first day of school can be a high pressure time of year for them, too, and answering more questions after a full day can be exhausting for them. On the other hand, you may have a voluntary sharer on your hands. Either way, one simple question can allow for space or a new door to be opened in your developing relationship as your children become young adults.
Whatever challenges your children may face on day one of school, we will come through it together. We are a community focused on empathy. We may not always be perfect the first time we do things, as noone is, but we will keep trying and seeking answers with care and compassion. This begins on day one of the school year with a gifted group of faculty and staff, with whom I have the privilege of working. We are all excited to begin.
Here’s to a fabulous year together!
Rachel M. Guinn