For the first two years of my daughter Sophie’s school career, she was so chatty at the end of the day. I barely even had to ask, “How was your day?” and she’d be off, recounting everything from the morning announcements to what books her kindergarten teacher read at circle time to who she played with at recess. She held nothing back (and when my husband came home, she’d start all over again). I found I looked forward to the daily report.
But early on in grade one, I noticed a shift to a more guarded rundown of events. I got the dreaded “Fine” whenever I asked, “How was your day?” and, when she did divulge, she often focused only on playground dynamics (and while I wanted to hear about her friends, I wanted to hear about life inside the classroom, too). I tried prompting her in different ways with little success, so I went into what I like to call MRM—Mama Research Mode. I asked both friends with older kids and teacher friends for their tips, and I searched both the internet and the library (I love good old-fashioned books) for insight. Read on for the five most helpful tricks I found for getting kids to talk about their day in a meaningful way.
Ask questions that can’t be answered with one or two words, or even a single sentence
This means finding alternatives to “How was your day?” I eventually landed on, “Tell me the best and worst parts of your day. Start with the best.” Asking for the best first meant that we focused on the positives, and sometimes she’d get so wrapped up in a story she’d forget to move on to the negative parts of her day. There was the odd time, on a few particularly bad afternoons, that we handled the worst first, and that’s okay, too.
Make Your Questions Specific
Ask about French class or the day’s science lesson. Find out what sport she played in gym class, or what he has for homework. (If you make a point to know what’s happening in the school or classroom by reading the newsletters that come home or the emails from the teacher, you’ll be able to come up with detailed questions in a snap.)
Focus On Character Building
If you aren’t getting anywhere with your line of questioning, change direction. Instead of focusing on events, focus on your kiddo’s character traits. Ask, “What did you do that was brave today?” or “How did you show kindness today?”
Respect When She Doesn’t Want To Talk
There were a few times that I couldn’t get Soph to open up, no matter what I tried. Eventually I realized that this was alright. Instead of getting frustrated, I’d just say, “Okay. If you want to talk later, I’ll be here.” Often, she’d open up at bedtime instead.
Share About Your Day, Too
I found that if I told Sophie about how my day was going, she was more willing to tell me about hers, too. Modeling the behaviour you want to foster in your child is always a good idea.
Originally published in the ParentsCanada Fall 2018 issue.