Now that school has started, I’m sure you’ve started greeting the kids at the door with “How was school today?” Are you getting the famous one word reply– “Fine”? Or my favorite, “OK.” Ah, communication at it’s best.
Getting your kids to actively talk about their day can be a challenge but here are some tips that have worked for us on how to get your kids to talk more about their day.
Greet, don’t grill.
Kids can get defensive and feel intimidated when you ask them about school right as they get off the bus. Don’t grill them about their day as soon as they walk in the door. “What did you do today? What did you learn? What did you have for lunch?” Just take it easy and truly show them you are just happy to see them again. This worked wonders for my family since the kids didn’t drag their feet coming home to tell me bad news. They knew they could ease into it.
We found an article that Jim Fay wrote and he calls this technique the “30 minutes rule.” Don’t talk about school or your work for 30 minutes after greeting each other. You don’t want to hear bad news about your kid’s day and they don’t want you to take out any work aggression on them. Don’t let school or work ruin your relationship with your child. Make sure you are both happy to greet each other. You can read his other hints here.
It’s great if your child begins the talking first. One day, don’t ask them about school at all and see what happens. Kids are usually less defensive and more willing to share their school experience when they start to talk first. So hold back the questions and just let them tell you. Or, see if they ask you about your day. (We can dream, can’t we?)
Once you start talking, be very open with them. Tell them about a mistake you made that day that you wish you could take back. Seeing your wiliness to share about your day can help them talk about their school day. Share with them what you like to do, how you spent your day while they were away, what happened at your work, if you met up with a friend, or if you saw something interesting. Let your kids get to know you as a person.
It’s All in How You Ask.
Asking them “How was school today” most often or not leads to the word ‘okay’, ‘fine’ in a tone that declares an end to the conversation. I’ve been trying to use more open ended questions like: What sport did you play today in gym? What game did you play in recess? Who did you play with at recess? Why do you like that friend? Did you like the lunch I packed you? Who did you sit with at lunch today? What was the coolest thing that happened to you today? What do you wish that you could do over? (Obviously, don’t grill them with all of these questions at once. Pick a few for the day and see what happens.)
Take advantage of the clues in their backpack to start the conversation. Ask them about the homework, graded papers, notes from teachers, and artwork your kids bring home daily. Talk to them about the notes their teacher wrote on their papers, and praise them for the good grades they’ve earned. (We all need a little more praise and positive feedback every day, don’t we?) Show interest in their artwork and ask them to explain their master piece to you – even if it is just green beans glued to white paper.
A place where everyone gathers.
Make dinner a safe and comforting place for your family to share their goods and bads, happiness and disappointments, past and up-coming events. There is no better time or place to talk about your day then when you are all gathered together eating dinner. If your family’s schedule is just too hectic so that you can’t eat dinner together, then make breakfast together a ritual. Get up a little earlier but get everyone around the table talking. If you make these family conversations part of the daily routine, when they reach to their teen years, it’ll be easier for them to share.
The best time is … anytime.
Try talking about your child’s day at different times. After you have relaxed and read a story together might be a good time to talk. Or at breakfast before the day starts might be the best time. Try talking about their day at different times to see when they are most relaxed and open to sharing.
I hope these tips help you and your children to have more meaningful conversations about school.