If you’re like most parents, the first thing you say to your children when you see them after school is likely, “How was school?” or “How was your day?”
It’s usually met with an “okay” or “fine.” That’s great, I guess. But this brevity can leave you almost missing the pre-school days when they had no problem talking nonstop, all the time, hounding you to the point of insanity. But at least they talked to you! Now that they’re older, you don’t have a clue as to what they do all day.
You have to give them something better to work with. Closed-ended questions that require only a one-word answer don’t do much to stimulate connection. Fortunately, you can tweak your question to be more open-ended, encouraging a more specific answer and giving you insight into your child’s world.
Try some of these to kickstart a conversation:
What did you do at recess?
What was your favorite class today and why?
What did you eat for lunch?
Who had the best food in their lunch?
Who did you sit by in class?
Who would you like to sit by and why?
What/who made you smile?
How did someone help you today?
How did you help someone else?
What was something funny that happened?
What new thing did you learn today?
Was there anything you didn’t understand today?
What was the most interesting thing your teacher said?
What rule was hardest to follow?
Who in your class has trouble following the rules?
Who’s your favorite teacher and why?
What made you happy?
What made you sad?
Did you hear (or tell) any good jokes?
What was the most challenging thing you did today?
What made you proud of yourself?
Which friends did you play with?
Did you make any new friends today?
What was the most boring part of the day?
If you could be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
What was your favorite part of the day?
What was your least favorite part of the day?
If you could change anything about the day, what would it be?
Did you see anything interesting while on the bus (or in the car)?
Would you like to know anything about my day?
But my kid doesn’t want to talk!
You may be looking forward to connecting with your kid, but they may not feel the same way. To lessen the chances of them bolting before you even open your mouth, consider these tips:
Don’t bombard them the moment they get in the car or walk in the door. Some kids need a bit of space after a long day. Dinner may be a better time to strike up a conversation.
Don’t blast through the whole list of questions in one day (unless your child is the type that likes a long interview). Pick one or two you think are relevant for the day and see where that leads.
If the discussion turns toward a trouble they’re dealing with, don’t immediately tell them what to do about it or try to fix it. Only offer advice if they want it. Just being there for them now can help them open up for years to come.
Take the lead.
They may feel like they’re always in the hot seat. Why don’t you tell them about your day, too? Answer some questions yourself and see what happens.
LJ is a writer, fitness trainer, and mom of three boys who are growing up way too fast. See more from her at fitmixmom.com.