Communication comes in a variety of forms these days: Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagrams, texts, emails, Skype, and cell phone calls, to name some. There will be times when you learn about something happening on campus first-hand when your student calls you on the way to class. Other times, you may find out from a POINT email or on Facebook. Students sometimes call about one thing, but with effective listening, you can tell there is a deeper reason for the call. Whatever the case may be, learning to communicate effectively with your student via several forums can be done. The rules of good communication cut across the board, as you listen and respond in supportive, open ways.

Be Encouraging

  • Try to convey interest, no matter how simple or mundane the topic is. If your student has contacted you, he or she wants to connect!
  • Be patient and try not to interrupt, whether it’s with your voice or your typed words.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as, “Can you tell me more?”
  • Try not to agree or disagree with every point that is being shared. Use neutral words.
  • If you’re texting, let your student know when you are available for a phone call so you can talk more.

Show You’re Listening

  • Make reflective statements such as, “So, it’s sounding like you really want that job” to show that you understand what’s going on with your son or daughter.
  • Concentrate on “hidden” emotional meanings. What are the real feelings behind the words? If you’re on the phone or Facetiming/Skyping with your student, what is the tone or expression telling you?
  • Don’t assume you understand (“Oh, I know exactly what you mean!”). Pure listening is often much more important than just hearing your student’s words.

Summarize the Key Points

  • Restate the major ideas and feelings that were expressed to help your student establish an action plan.
  • Help your student sort out the important aspects of the conversation from the tangents and turns without diminishing feelings.
  • Make statements such as, “These seem to be the key thoughts/feelings you expressed… Did I miss anything?”

Validate Thoughts and Feelings

  • Acknowledge the value of your student’s feelings.
  • Try to keep your own emotions from interfering with your ability to listen openly. You don’t have to agree in order to be a good listener.
  • Express appreciation for your student’s efforts and actions, even if they seem minimal. This will remind your student that he or she has a cheering section—even if it’s located far away!
  • Make statements such as, “I’m happy you decided to discuss this with me.”

While communication methods have expanded with technology, students’ needs are relatively similar to what they’ve always been: they need to be listened to, supported, challenged and validated – by you!

Donna Krivoski
Director of Parent Relations