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PTO Today

Talking to your child about school

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By Emily Graham, PTO Today

Communicating with kids: tips by age group

Playground disputes and disappointing grades — and learning to deal with them — are important parts of growing up. Before you intervene on your child's behalf, think about what response is appropriate for his maturity level and developmental stage.

Talking with young children: Younger children, especially those in kindergarten through third grade, will need help thinking about how to respond to problems at school. You can help your child learn problem-solving skills by talking about potential responses and what results they may bring. Help your child decide the best steps to take and encourage her to do what she can on her own.

Older children may be aware of potential solutions but still need encouragement to act. Children sometimes need coaching from their parents to take the first step, says Steinberg. If the problem persists, he recommends calling your child's teacher to see what insights he or she can bring.

Talking with adolescents: By fourth or fifth grade, children may become more resistant to parental involvement. Although it's a difficult balance, it's important to respect your adolescent's growing desire for autonomy while being available to help when needed. For example, if a seventh-grader is struggling in math class, talking with the child about the best way to ask the teacher for extra help is likely to be more effective than calling the teacher directly, Steinberg says.

As adolescents feel the need for more privacy, there will be times they simply don't want to talk. When that happens, Steinberg recommends the following approach: "If a 12- or 13-year-old looks upset, say, 'You look upset. Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?' If the child says no, say, 'That's OK, but if you do feel like talking, I'm here.' "

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Comments from readers

"I would like to know what is the best way to talk with my 12 years old daughter about her father, because he is with a new lady in his house. She is very upset because she says that her new stepmother is always mad with her. She doesn't like the way is being treated, even she feels that her father pays more attention to his girlfriend that her daughter. I asked my daughter to skip her regular visits to her father's house and spend more weekends with me, but she used to visit him almost every weekend because she says she missed him so much."