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The Best Back to School Tip for Parents

children family parenting school Aug 06, 2022

7 minute Read

By Bethany Rees


Awe it’s the “Back to School” Season. 

For parents, this time of the year can represent a reprieve on providing the constant supervision of and entertainment for their kids. It also brings more structure to the family household.  

So for parents, this back to school season is as Andy Williams sang in his famous Christmas song “...the most wonderful time of the year.” 

While it may be a blessed time for us parents, let’s make sure we don’t slap our kids on the butt, say “go get em’ tiger” and then check out because we’re tagging their teacher in. 

Teachers should never be seen as a substitute or even a replacement for parents when it comes to caring for, supporting, or instructing their child.

A present parent who knows the external and internal goings of their child is vital to helping their child work through their school experiences. It also helps them learn the life skills they need to launch to adulthood successfully.

So parents, we know you're excited about your kids going back to school, but how do your kids feel about it?

School is the hub of your kids’ budding “work” and social life, so you need to be in tune with what they are experiencing and feeling. 

SO here’s the best back-to-school tip I could ever give you: Make sure you are intentional in learning about your child’s experience in and feelings about school. 

Kids Feelings About School

Some kids love school because they love being around people and learning new things. They love the changing dynamics and social interactions.

Exhibit A - My daughter's excitement about going into kindergarten

Other kids hate school. They see it as an environment that has constant exposure to forced peer groups, forced activities, and fights for social status. 

Some kids are putting in the work in/out of class and others aren’t. 

Some kids start school loving it but end up hating it. Some start hating it but end up loving it. Why? Because of their day-to-day interactions.  

So I ask again, how do your kids feel about school? How are doing in school? 

Is it typically a great experience? A time of excitement, participation, social interactions, and achievement? 


Is it typically a “meh” or terrible experience? A time of stress, anxiety, social angst, and fights about homework or grades? 

Your child’s overall experience is probably somewhere in the middle. 

As a parent, you need to be intentional in learning about and truly understanding what kind of experiences they are having, the root causes of these experiences, and what kind of feelings those experiences are creating.

 Don’t be too busy or too arrogant and think you really know how your kids have felt about school in the past or are feeling about going back to school this year. 

I have sat through countless parent-teacher conferences with parents to discuss grades or social situations, and they are shocked to find out what their child thinks, feels, or does when it comes to school and friends. Some of my saddest parent-teacher conferences were when the school shared our concerns about the child’s mental health (even suicidal ideations) and the parents didn’t have a clue. 

Side Note: A huge proportion of the mental health scares were with Gifted and Talented  and advanced level kids because they are “people pleasers” and don’t want to let their parents or teachers down. So on the outside they seem to excel at school, but on the inside they are a ball of stress, anxiety, and resentment to the pressure to be perfect. 

There’s a whole spectrum of feelings your child can and will have concerning school. One day can be “the best day in the world,” while another day can have them saying “I hate my life.” 

Staying “In the Know” of Their World

So parents, get a seat on their school rollercoaster, strap in, and ride the ups and downs with them. 

Again, kids’ “work” and social lives revolve around those they interact with at school, so make sure you are intentional in finding out what your child thinks, feels, and does in and around this environment. Find out who their friends are, who their teachers are, who they are talking to and following on social media if they have it.

By riding the coaster with your child, you can be a support for them just by being present and listening. And if you feel it’s appropriate, you can coach them through the daily situations they experience. Your home can become a safe place to lay down and reveal all the baggage they carried around throughout the day. 

So as a parent, how do we stay in the know?  Especially if our child won’t open up to us about school?

Approach it like you would a frog in a pot. 

If you put a frog in a boiling pot of water, they’ll immediately jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of room temperature water and gradually turn up the heat where it's barely noticeable, the frog will stay in the pot even in boiling water. 

Now, your child’s not a frog nor do you need to boil, fry, or grill them about their day. Just start small and build normalcy and safety around having conversations about the little things, and then gradually those conversations will be about big things. 

There are 2 things you need to get right when starting these conversations: 

  • Timing

  • Questioning 

First, timing is so important in making your child feel comfortable in opening up to you….and a direct conversation with forced eye contact AIN’T IT. Instead, establish a routine for conversation when you and your kiddo are engaged in some sort of activity.  

I get the most conversation out of my kids (ages 12 and 17) when we are doing things we do everyday as part of our daily routine: walking the dog, cooking dinner, eating dinner, washing dishes, or when I watch them play video games.  

These timings for conversation work! My 17 year old is super quiet and shows the emotions of Darth Vader (he never reveals his emotions via his facial expressions). But, he talks the most when washing dishes or playing video games…because he’s distracted with the activity. 

Exhibit B - My son's "excitement" about going into the 5th grade

(P.S. He's NOT a talker so here are his answers since you probably can't hear him: 1) "happy because we have lockers," 2)"fun because of band" (Update: He hated band), 3) thumbs down because he doesn't like those subjects and 4) eye roll and walk off camera

Second, ask the right kind of questions. Asking “how was your day,” typically only gets you one word answers that cause you to have to ask more questions…which then makes the conversation start to feel like the Spanish Inquisition. So instead ask about something you know they like to talk about. This has been a HUGE help in conversations with my son. 

If your kid is into video games you say ”tell me about your favorite video game right now.” 

If your kiddo is super into animals, tell them about a dog/cat you “saw” on the street and ask them “when you have your own house, what kind of animals would you like?  

To slowly turn up the heat in the conversation you can move from questions to a specific request, this works well to replace the “how was school?” question.  

For example, imagine cooking dinner with your kid and you talking first by mentioning two things about your day. Then you’d say to them, “so tell me two things that happened at school today.” Or if you know a specific event was happening that day, then you could ask “So today was the math test, what was the easiest and hardest question on there? 

As the conversation becomes more part of your relationship routine, you can up the ante by asking them to tell you a Rose, a Bud, and a Thorn about their day. The rose is something they enjoyed. The bud is something they look forward to, and the thorn is something they disliked.

Remember! In Conversation Listen, Don’t Lecture  

Making casual conversation, without embedded lectures, builds the relationship and you kids will become more open to talking to you. Now if you’re a lecturer type person, save those for times of discipline, but definitely remove them from times of conversation. Conversation is a TWO-WAY street and requires both parties to share. 

Don’t be discouraged as you work to grow a conversational relationship with your child. You’re kids probably want to open up to you, but they don’t want to feel awkward,  judged, lectured to, or like they’re letting you down. But by learning how to start and then listen in conversations with your kids, you’ll create emotional safety in the relationship so your kids will share more. 

Also remember that if you “see something, to say something.” If you sense something is off with your kiddo, say something. Mention what you see, and ask them to tell you about it…they will. 

“You seem _(emotion)_, tell me about it.” 

Even though my 12 year old is talkative, she won’t always reveal the more serious feelings without prompting.  Multiple times last year I said, “You seem stressed/sad/mad, tell me about it” and she would spill it. (FYI: fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame have a way of silencing even the most talkative of people.) This prompting phrase even works with my super reserved son.  

Exhibit C - How my daughter feels about going into junior high

So parents, this school year don’t tag in the teacher and then check out with your kids. 

Be intentional about getting to know your child’s experiences in and around school. Don’t go to the extreme by conducting an interrogation but don’t be “hands off” either. Instead find the harmony between by focusing on the right timing and questions that will not only build the relationship around conversation but give you a window into your child’s thoughts, feelings, and actions in and around their life. 

And Exhibit D - My senior didn't approve me sharing this school year's "update," but I'll show you a picture from the video to show just how boys can change into men over a 7 year period.  After high school he plans on joining the military (Branch TBD but the Air Force is in the lead). 

Know Better. Do Better. Live Better. Listen to Your Kids!

Rocks before Sand!


21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. “ ~Colossians 3:21

Theme Song: 

 Trace Adkins Just Fishing

References Used:

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