You’ve dressed him/her up and sent her off in a flurry of excitement to school. Bar a few tears (from you or your child) you can’t wait to hear about the day at school.
As parents, we have invested a lot (blood, sweat, tears, life-lessons, love and money) to give our children the advantages they need not to just survive in this world, but to flourish! Of course we are eager to hear stories of how our investments are paying dividends.
BUT apart from a few chatty children, your post–school dissection discussion is likely to follow these lines:
Mom: How was your day at school?
Mom: What did you do?
If you’re lucky, you may get one random fact
Child: I played in the sandpit
Some mothers’ (or fathers) are luckier still – they get the juicy gossip
Child: Sarah pinched Maria
So how do you get your child to share information about his/her day?
The biggest mistake parents make is to ask questions that can be answered with one word, like “how was your day?”
They WILL answer “fine”
Your child’s day has been extremely busy with lots of new and different activities. They are often drained and need time to ‘chill.’ Once you have asked how the day was ,(and as long as the answer was some sort of affirmation), wait at least half an hour before you try and get any more information out of them. Think about how you feel after a long day at work.
1. Find out about their school timetable
This allows you to ask specific questions about, art, music, library, assembly or outside play.
2. Ask open-ended questions
These are questions that can’t be answered with yes/no.
For example: What story did your teacher read you today? What was it about?
What toys did you play with?
Did you sing any songs? (if you know they had music/singing).
Tell me about you picture that you drew/something you wrote.
Did anything funny happen?”
3. Get information about the theme they are using
Find out if the class is using a theme for the week or the term. Explore the topic together at home and talk about the vocabulary around the theme. This will give your child the confidence to talk about it at school.
4. Model sharing about your own day
It doesn’t have to be entirely true , because sharing with your child that you took them to school and went to work is not very interesting to them. Talk about something with enthusiasm. So you might say something like “I had a busy day today. I took you to school and then I went to the shops to buy some delicious snacks for you to take to school in your lunch.” This is likely to open the conversation gate to “what did you buy?”
5. Stretch conversation with “invitation openers”
If and when your child shares a detail use comments like: “Really?” “Uh huh?” “I don’t believe it!” “Wow!” They’re not threatening and invite a talker to open up.
6. Repeat talk portions
Try repeating bits of your child’s conversation:
Child: “I played on the swing.”
You: “You played on the swing?”
The trick is to repeat the information in a matter-of-fact but interested way to get your child to open up and add more information.
You can also make “mistakes” which may encourage her to correct you and then expand. Instead of answering “you played on the swing”, you could answer “you played in the snow?”
7. Talk while doing
Some kids (especially boys) are more likely to open up while doing something they enjoy, like eating ice cream, drawing, or building Lego.
In saying this, it is also important to avoid asking challenging questions during transitions.
It’s far more difficult to talk during transitions or while multitasking (e.g. walking out of the school into the carpark, getting in and out of the car, preparing lunch). Instead, keep your questions thoughtful and simple during transitions. Save the more challenging questions for when you are home and settled.
For example, you might greet you child with “I’m so happy to see you! I can’t wait to hear all about your day.”
8. Use mealtimes to talk
Knowing that the family gathered at dinner is a safe place to share joys and disappointments, is comforting. If parents start modeling communication then children will learn that this is a place to talk about their day.
9. Listen, listen, listen
Once your child starts talking about his day, stop asking questions and listen. As parents, we tend to jump in with more questions, but pausing is important as it gives your child the chance to gather and organize his thoughts and ideas.
10. Sometimes Fine is Fine
Don’t expect your child to want to talk about school every day. Be more realistic and let them have days when they don’t have to tell you anything. Remember, you can find out about how your child is doing by talking to other parents and the teacher. You may also find that if your child has a friend home to play after school, they tell you an awful lot more than when they are alone with you.
Finally, if your child is finding it really difficult to share any information about his school-day, it may be because using language to express his thoughts and ideas is difficult for him. Talk to your child’s teacher and if necessary consult a speech and language therapist.