Most parents can relate to the struggle of getting information about school from their children. Their quick answers often indicate they did “nothing”, had a “fine” day, and don’t really want to talk about it. It can be frustrating for a parent who is trying to stay connected to her child.
When my children started preschool, I initiated a habit of asking, “What was the best thing about today?” or “What was the best thing you learned about today?” On the rare occasion when they answered “recess” or “the cookie in my lunch”, I’d leave it at that. I did not push.
Thus far, my children are still forthcoming with what is going on at school. In fact, my sixth grade son will tell me how many breaths he took between science and math. He doesn’t leave out a single detail of his day.
Below are some tips to help you get the kind of answer you are looking for:
Avoid closed ended questions
If you ask a yes or no question, you are going to get a yes or no for an answer. By asking an open-ended question, you are more likely to receive a more detailed answer. Try asking, “what did you cover in science today?” or “tell me about your math test”.
Wait until later
Be patient. Try to set aside your eagerness and need to know and wait until your child has had some time to settle down from the school day. Chances are conversation will flow better if you give him time to transition. Ask questions while you’re driving to soccer practice, at the dinner table, or during the bedtime routine.
Model good conversation
Our children are still learning effective ways of communicating. Their notions and perceptions may not be on target with ours. Tell them about your day. Tell them about the part of the day you enjoyed the most. Tell them of a victory you experienced or even a disappoint you had to face. Ask questions that will mean something to them.
Make sure you listen to the answer
Do not ask your child how school was while you are in the middle of doing the dishes. Sit down. Focus. Show your child you are interested in her answer. Have you ever asked a grocery clerk how she is doing and then realized you didn’t pay attention to her answer? If you want your children to communicate with them, make sure you are listening.
Ask their friends
My mom still makes jokes about getting more information about my youngest brother from his childhood friend than she gets from him directly. When your son brings a playmate home, throw the question out to both of them. You may be surprised at the detailed answer you’ll get from the friend. There is something about responding to someone else’s mother.
Criticism is a surefire way to shut down communication from your child. If you put so much effort into getting her to open up to you and then you start to point out faults in her actions, you will put a damper on the prospect of future communication.
It’s important for parents to know the answer to “how was school?” – not only to keep up with your children’s workloads but to show them you are invested in their days and in their success. Communication is a continuous effort and one you will have to work on constantly as your children grow.