By Vicki Little
Most after-school conversations with our children tend to be short and less-than-sweet. Parents, who are frustrated with one-word answers like “fine, ” tend to give up and hope for a better discussion at dinner. Unfortunately, dinner is often met with a similar scenario. Here are some things to remember when it feels like you are pulling teeth to get your children to talk about their days.
- Timing is everything. Kids have long days. Their minds are running all day, and they are exhausted. They have raised their hand or been called on so many times, they don’t want to hear any more questions. They might prefer pure silence, and that’s OK. It has nothing to do with you. So find a time that they do want to talk. Maybe set a little snack on the counter while you prepare dinner and get them to relax and chat. Sometimes kids (especially boys) open up while moving around – shooting hoops with you or riding bikes together.
- Use open-ended and follow-up questions. Try to avoid the questions that lead to yes or no answers. Something like, “What did you do in science class today?” is better than “How was your day?” If your child says she took a test, ask how it went.
- Revisit previous discussions. Sally Ann sure is fun to play with during recess! Don’t wait for your chatterbox to tell you about it, if you notice this same name coming up again and again, ask about her new friend. If they know you are listening, they will talk more.
- Use language that is familiar. It takes a few questions (or sometimes even a visit to the classroom or email to the teacher) to figure out what rotations, centers, mini-courses, 500, or sticks is. Taking time to find out what terminology they use will save you some eye-rolls and turned backs, and may give you answers instead.
- Share information about your day. Listening to Mom and Dad chat about the highs and lows of their days encourages kids to open up about their own days as well.
- Talk about when you were in school. Kids love to hear about what their parents were like at their age, especially in school — as long as they can get past the idea that we really did have indoor plumbing and standardized tests. My kids are still stunned that I used to love participating in Jump Rope for Heart. And when I told them, they spent the next 30 minutes telling me about the tricks they could do.
- Pay attention to their body language. If your daughter says her day was great but her shoulders are slumped and she refuses to look at you, her day may not have been that awesome. Or maybe she had a long day of tests and projects, and she is just tired. Or if she is shining brightly and chippers up when you ask about music class, you should note there is a good chance it could be her favorite subject, and you should ask about it again.
- Change up the questions. Instead of asking, “how was your day?” try one of these questions:
- What did someone do that made you laugh today?
- Did you learn something new today?
- OK, seriously, what was the funniest thing that happened at lunch today? Pretend I’m not your mom. (Yes, you will need to laugh at whatever gross fart joke, food combination, or milk-out-the-nose trick is revealed here.)
- Did anything make you sad today?
- What book did you choose to read?
- Did anyone bug you today?
- Did you hang out with Bobby at lunch again?
- What is your favorite part of the day? What part do you dread?
- What does one of your friends do that you want to learn to do?
- What do your friends do on the weekends?
- What subject is your least favorite?
- If you could be the substitute for one day, what would you tell the class they didn’t have to do?
- Are there any projects or tests coming up that you are dreading?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
Want more great content from The Mother List? Sign up here!