“What did you do in school today?”
“How was your day?”
It can be a challenge to get many children to say more about their day than these common refrains. This handy little list may help you dig a little bit deeper with your child and discover more about their time away from you.
- WAIT: At the end of a long day it can be challenging, even for an adult, to process, synthesize, and express how their day went. Right after school many children are focused on their empty stomachs and what adventures they want to get into during their free time. However, given time many children will have more to say than just, “Nothing or fine.” Try incorporating a discussion about your child’s day into his or her bedtime routine. In our house we wait until we are comfortable and snuggled into bed with a good book to ask, “What was the best part of your day?” It is amazing how ready our seven year old is to talk.
- BE SPECIFIC: Instead of asking your child about their whole day, which can be daunting to summarize, ask specific questions. It may help to keep a copy of their schedule handy at home so you can ask questions such as, “What materials did you use in art class today?,” “Did your music teacher have you sing that funny song again? How does it go?,” or “What new words did you learn in Spanish today?”
- REMEMBER THE SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PHYSICAL: While it is easy to focus on the academic aspects of a school day it is important to keep in mind that if your child’s social, emotional, and physical worlds are in balance then they will be more able to access the scholastic side of the school day. You may want to occasionally ask specific questions about friendships, feelings, and play. Some questions may be “Who did you play with a recess today?,” “What was the snack choice at school today?,” “How are the monkey bars going? Have you been able to skip a bar yet, I know you were working on that?”
- IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MAKE THEM LAUGH: Occasionally when children are very tight lipped about their day it can help to make them laugh about it. Make up a silly scenario such as, “I heard that in Physical Education Mr. So-and-So made you stand on your heads while singing the hokey-pokey today.” Many children will give you an immediate, “No he didn’t!! We played lacrosse and I shot two goals.” This cannot be used all the time, or your child will catch on, but it does work occasionally.
- LISTEN: Finally, if you ask your child a question, be prepared to actively listen. Put down anything else you might be doing and give them your undivided focus. Ask questions only after they finish their stories, no matter how long or complicated they may be. Your attention will demonstrate to your child how important their days, their joys, and their worries really are.