As a kid, I always hated it when my mom tried to get me to talk about my day at school. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to talk about; the way she went about it was completely overwhelming. She would bombard me with questions the minute I got home, and I would dutifully respond with one word answers until she grew frustrated with my lack of cooperation. My mom had only the best intentions, but still it always went wrong. Here are six tips that will help you get your kids to talk about their day at school.
1. Don’t Ask the Second They Walk in the Door
After a long day at school, kids need some time to unwind before they will divulge the juicy secrets of their day. Give them some snacks, let them watch a little bit of television or play a board game. In order to get the information you want from your kids, patience is key.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Every parent has a certain question that they always ask. “How was your day?” was my mom’s. Regardless of the wording, however, this question needs to be thrown out the window. It allows your child to get away with a one word answer. “Fine” and “good” do not trigger conversations; they kill them.
3. Ask Specific Questions
Many kids don’t talk about their day at school simply because their parents ask the wrong questions. Vague questions like “What did you do today?” can be hard to answer. Countless events happen during your child’s full day at school, and they often need a spark to remember what happened.
4. Know Their Schedule
How do you get that spark, you might ask? Well, it’s easier than you would think: know their schedule. Pay attention to what classes they have on what days of the week. Know when they have a big project coming up, and remember what they are learning in science class this week. Ask them how that presentation went, or what sport they played in gym class today. When you bring up specific events in their schedule, they are more likely to remember the details and consequently share them with you.
5. Share Your Day
Kids learn by example. If you want to show your kids how to communicate, it’s important to share with them the details of your own day. When you tell them about your day in more than one word, eventually they’ll start to do the same. In the end, there’s nothing more rewarding than having your child come home from school and ask you about your day.
6. Listen and Show Interest
Listening is one of the most important parts of the process. If your child starts to tell you a specific story about their day, don’t interrupt them. Give them your full attention, even if they’re telling you something completely unrelated to the question you originally asked. Be sure to have one or two follow-up questions when their story is over to show that you have been listening. The key is to give your child the confidence to share the details of their day without feeling unimportant.
In the end, every child is different. Some kids respond well to constant questions, and others can only answer one or two before they close themselves off. Eventually, my mother understood that I needed a break when I first got home from school, and even then I often couldn’t remember much of what happened. She proceeded to give me a snack break when I got home, and then asked more specific questions so that I could remember the highlights of my day. If you too want your kids to give more-than-one-word answers when they talk about their day, be patient and learn what works best for your family.