19 Communicate with your child Communicating with middle school students can be a real challenge. When parents ask “How was school today?” they often hear “fine” “boring” or “okay.” If parents ask any more questions, middle schoolers are likely to wonder why they’re being interrogated. Communicating with middle school students can be difficult, but because it’s so important, parents need to make the extra effort. The tips below will help you communicate and connect with your middle school child. u Timing is important. Be available to listen when your child wants to talk. Also look for times when your child is most likely to be open to conversation (right after getting home from school, before going to bed, etc.). A particularly good time to talk is when you’re driving in the car. It’s quiet, no one can leave, you don’t need to make eye contact, and you’re spending the time together anyway. u Tell your child what you want done (instead of what you don’t want done). For example, instead of saying, “Don’t leave your backpack on the floor” say “Please put your backpack in your room.” u Ask open-ended questions that require more than one word answers. Instead of asking “How was school?” say “Tell me about your day” or ask “What’s that book about?” u Make time for one-on-one activities. It’s often easier to talk to your child when you’re doing something you both enjoy, such as cooking, shopping, taking a walk, working on a car, watching a game, or going out for ice cream. These are great ways to spend quality time with your child, and they provide excellent opportunities for conversation. Your child may not always seem thrilled to hang out with you, but whether he/she admits it or not, your child needs and wants to spend time alone with you. u Be specific in your communications. Instead of saying “Be home early” say “Be home at 8:00.” Don’t leave instructions open to interpre- tation.