“How was school today, sweetie?”
“What did you do?”
The school day is long. Your children experience so many things and yet, by the end of the day when you finally reunite and want to hear about them, all you get is a one word response. How can you get your kids to share more?
Talking to your kids about school is important. It gives them the feeling that you care and it shows them that you value their education. Talking to your kids about their day also allows you to know what is happening in their lives, and gives you the opportunity to support them through various challenges such as school projects, peer conflicts, stress and much more.
Here are a few tips to get the conversation started:
- Start with a happy greeting. Greet your child with an enthusiastic “hello,” or “it’s great to see you,” rather than going straight to questions about school.
- Avoid interrogating your child. Sometimes it is easier to talk while doing something else (ex: chatting in the car or while you’re preparing supper) and some children don’t like to speak immediately after school but are more open to have a conversation later on in the evening, during supper, or right before bedtime. Allow your child the chance to pick the right time for them to speak. Just spending time together playing can make the conversation flow more naturally.
- Give your child your full attention. Some children are not comfortable talking if there other people around (ex: other kids in the carpool, siblings), or if they feel that you are distracted or doing something else.
- “How was school?” is a very big question. Some children may find it so big that they don’t even know how to start answering. Asking your child specific questions can help guide the conversation.
- “Tell me the names of four students you sat with/played with at lunch.”
- “Tell me something interesting you learned today.”
- “What was the best part in French class today?”
- “Tell me about something that was difficult today and how you dealt with it.”
- Talk about your own day! Talking about yourself models to your child how to share about your experiences and makes it feel more like a conversation and less like an interrogation. It also gives your child the opportunity to see that you too have “hard days” and experience conflicts. Children can have great ideas about how to solve other people’s problems. If you share with your child and ask for his/her advice, it can help develop problem-solving skills and boost self-esteem.
- Avoid jumping in to solve your child’s conflicts. As a parent, it can be tough to not find solutions when your child opens up about the harder parts of their day. While stepping in to fix your child’s problems for them may be effective in the short term, it also reinforces helplessness and dependence on you, rather than developing confidence and problem-solving skills. Letting children generate solutions to their problems before you suggest them builds strong coping skills and resilience.
- Give your child some space. Some kids feel that their school experiences are private and may not want to share all the details with their parents. Respect that by giving your child the feeling that you are interested, but do not apply pressure because you “need” to know. You want your child to talk to you because they want to and not because they have to. You can say things like “I see that you don’t really want to talk right now. That’s OK, I’ll be here when you’re ready.”
- Look for the positive! Some kids feel that their parents are only interested in hearing about the “problems” and it can create an image of school that isn’t truly reflective of all of their experiences. If you notice that your child only wants to report on “what went wrong,” be sure to encourage them to also reflect on the fun and positive moments throughout their day, the moments of success, achievement, and pride.
For more tips on fostering healthy communication with your child, check out:
By: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (available at Chapters or Amazon)