We all want to hear about our child’s day—what they did in the playground, who they sat with at lunch, whether they understood what was going on, and, most importantly, whether they had a “good” day.
So we frequently ask, “How was your day?” In response, we often get grunts and shrugged shoulders. As an alternative we try asking, “What did you do at school today?” This time you get the customary one-word answer: “Nothing.”
Rather than push harder for answers to your standard end-of-the-day questions, why not try some new conversation primers?
Here are some tips for getting your child to open up when they come home.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
“How was school today?” is too vague and children need more specific questions to help them recall their day. Avoid questions that can be answered in one word, especially with a “yes” or “no.” Instead, try some open-ended questions like, “Tell me about what you played at break today?” or “I wonder what you had for lunch today?”
Use their Artwork to Start Conversations
A child’s art work can refer both to school activities or things of specific interest to your child. Take advantage of these masterpieces by asking open ended questions of your little artist and don’t forget to listen to the answers. Showing interest in their work can increase your child’s self-esteem, as well as provide vital emotional and mental links between school and home.
Know their Timetable
This way you can start talking about library day, sports or art class. “What kind of books did the librarian show you today?” or “Tell me about the books that you chose?” Take the time to sit down and read the books with your child affirming their choice and encouraging them in their reading habits. Discuss what your child feels went right in the football match – or what went wrong!
Model “Sharing” about your Day
“I had a great day today. I talked to nanna about…” or “I met a new friend and we had coffee.” It is important to share your interests, friends, challenges and joys with your kids so they see that communication modelled for them.
Give Children Time to Unwind
Whilst it may seem your child is brushing you off, they are likely to be tired and attempting to disengage from school business. Give them a snack for an energy boost and a run in the park before you get home. They’ve been hemmed in all day by walls and instructions and need to cut loose for a bit. They’ll be more inclined to give you a glimpse of their day once they’ve been fed and exercised!
Play Talking Games
Playing the ‘sad and glad’ game will encourage your child to talk without feeling they are being bombarded by questions. At the dinner table everyone takes turns answering “I was glad today because…..” and “I was sad today because…..” You can extend it to “mad” too – what made you cross. This is a good way to open up discussions.
Give your Child Special One-to-One Time
This doesn’t mean special treats or hot chocolates but doing something together every day, just the two of you. It could be as simple as preparing a meal. These are times when easy conversations occur.
Use ‘reflective listening’
This is a way of re-framing questions into statements that invite a response and de-personalise conversations. Instead of asking “Are you worried about your test?” you could say something like “Lots of kids your age get worried about tests.” This makes it easier for your child to reply.
Be Ready and Available to Listen
When your child wants to speak, stop and listen to them. Turn off the TV or put away the phone, look up and show that you are listening fully and you value what they have to say.
Try Communicating without Words.
The best way to connect with your child may not necessarily be through talking. Talk is not how all kids express themselves: play is. Many children prefer to reconnect with a hug, by playing a game or even rough housing. Some are more physical than verbal, so you might ask them to give you thumbs up or thumbs down about their day instead of discussing it.
Avoid Face-to-Face Interrogations
You might do better in situations where you’re not face-to-face like in the car, when your child takes a bath, or when you are cooking. In this way, your child won’t feel put on the spot.
Listen Before you Talk
Let your child lead you into conversations on their own. Sometimes your child will drop hints without your asking, like “We planted seeds today!” or “Where’s the atlas? I need to find Antarctica.” These are perfect openings to talk together about their day.
by Sophie Heaton
This article has been provided by Families® Magazine, a free local magazine for parents and carers of children ages 0 to 12. Families® helps you get the best out of local family life, so find your nearest magazine here and don’t forget to pick up a copy!