With the new school year now in full swing, many parents find extracting information about the school day from their children an excruciating process. The question ‘how was school today?’ is invariably answered with a ‘fine’, ‘good’ or ‘ok’. It’s often very difficult to get past these one word road blocks.
As parents, we want details! We want to know that they had someone to play with, that they felt included, that they had someone to sit with it at lunch, that they understand their lessons and that they are happy. Yet all this information never seems to be volunteered very readily.
However, there are some tactics you can use to delve deeper into your child’s school experiences. The first is binning the question ‘how was school today?’ because it is proven to be an ineffective way to open up conversations about the school day.
Don’t ask straight away
As soon as your child steps out of the classroom, they may be feeling a cocktail of emotions. As well as feeling tired and hungry, they can be strained from the effort of concentrating, being on their best behaviour and following the rules all day. As soon as they see a parent, they feel comfortable enough to release all those emotions and let loose. This can lead to ‘after school attitude’, when children play up, have tantrums and are uncooperative.
This is not a good time to ask them about their day. Once they’ve had a snack, adjusted to their home surroundings and had the chance to unwind, you’ll have a better chance at finding out what happened during their day. Your child will be much more likely to open up while you all sit down to dinner and during bath time, for example.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Once your child feels ready to talk about their day, open ended questions requiring more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer are your best bet.
Try and be a bit creative with your questioning. Avoid ‘how was school today?’ and try a more interesting route:
What was the best/worst thing that happened today?
Who did you play with?
Who did you sit with?
Tell me one thing you learned today.
What was your favourite part of lunch?
Who is the funniest person in your class?
What was your teacher wearing today?
Often the answer to one of these questions will be a natural progression to other topics.
It’s tempting to jump in with more questions to try and get to the bottom of a topic, but try to hang back and let your child direct the conversation.
Share your day with them
If you share tit-bits of your day with your child, they will be more likely to reciprocate. For example, if you share what you ate for lunch and who you ate it with, they may do the same. Although, for children who have just started school and are missing home, it may be a good idea not to make your day sound too exciting, especially if you have spent it with their sibling. Talking about what you ate, who you saw and what you talked about are good ways to help your child see how we share information about our days.