Is engaging your school-age kid in a conversation about her day like pulling teeth? Here are some mom-tested techniques to get her talking, and to build communication skills that will last a lifetime.
1. Ask Open-Ended Questions
The usual “How was your day?” is just begging for a one-word response. If you want more than a noncommittal “Fine,” try these questions instead:
- How did you like your lunch?
- What happened on the playground at recess?
- What are your ideas for the science fair next month?
2. Be Specific
Kids are no better at mind reading than adults. Specific questions are more likely to yield more detailed responses than general, broadly focused questions. By bringing up the specifics, it also tells your child that you’re invested in his school experience and builds trust. Here are some examples.
- Yesterday you mentioned that you and Sam weren’t getting along. Did you have a chance to talk with him at all today? Do you feel better about it now?
- Who did you sit across from at lunch? What did you talk about?
- I noticed that you’re having some trouble in Social Studies. What do you think we could do to help you more?
3. Spice it Up
Most kids expect the same questions from their parents every day after school. If you want to get your child talking, try to spice up the conversation by asking some them about various kinds of topics.
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Did you learn anything that really surprised you?
4. Don’t Ask.Tell.
By the end of the day, many kids are exhausted and look forward to “vegging out” at home. Bombarding them with a litany of questions might add to their sense of stress. Take a quiet moment with your child to tell him about your day at work. That might open the door for conversation instead of a one-sided dialogue.
- I had a really interesting thing happen at the office. Let me tell you about it.
- Tell me what you would have done if this happened to you.
5. Give Them a Break
The ride home from school may not be the best time to talk. Just like you need a transition from work to home, so do kids. Give them a break to have some stress-free “down time” after school, and try to engage them later, when they might be in a better mood to talk.
Communication is vital in any relationship, and being a partner in your child’s school experience is crucial. Encourage positive communication by being a good listener and being available to talk when your child is ready to do so. Using the conversation-starters above will help engage your school-age child in the kind of dialogue that will maximize sharing and improve their communication skills. They’ll lay the foundation that will transfer from the schoolyard to the workplace–and beyond.
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned freelance writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, focuses on MOMents–reflections of motherhood.
Image Credit: Mary Lauren Weimer