You pick up your child from school, and can’t wait to hear about his or her day. So you turn to the passenger seat and ask, eagerly: “How was your day?”
You: “What did you do today?”
You: “Did you learn anything new?”
But don’t give up on having a real conversation with your child yet. Experts say there are some simple things you can do to help your child open up and talk:
At the end of the school day, kids are spent – emotionally, physically and mentally. “They need time to decompress and relax. Expecting something other than a tired, one-word answer when kids walk in the door or get in the car is unrealistic,” said Maggie Macaulay, president of Whole Hearted Parenting in Miramar, which offers parent coaching and workshops.
Give kids a snack or a little time to themselves to help recharge their batteries. “Do whatever is soothing for the child,” Macaulay said. “Parents can provide these things, and a conversation will naturally happen over time.”
You want to re-establish a connection with your child after school by quizzing them about their day. But that conversation doesn’t have to be immediate. Accept that, and a lot of your frustration will disappear, Macaulay said.
“Parents may have an attachment to their child answering their questions about the school day because they equate the conversation with love – ‘If my child really loved me, he couldn’t wait to tell me all about his day,’” Macaulay said. “The attachment to this mythical end-of-the-school-day conversation is what causes the frustration.”
To encourage conversation, share something about your own day. Or ask your child for advice -- what to wear to a party, what to fix for dinner, or where to go on vacation. If you show that you value their opinion, they will open up more.
“There probably still needs to be a bit of time between leaving school and having this sharing time,” Macaulay said. “Children may just need a bit of quiet.”
Ask good questions
Use open-ended questions, instead of yes-or-no questions. Instead of “Did you have a good day,” ask “What was the best part of your day?” Instead of “Did you make any new friends,” ask “What did you and your friends do at recess?” Instead of “Did you learn anything new,” ask “What was the most interesting thing you learned today?”
Know what your child’s “love language” is – what makes them feel loved and secure, Macaulay said. There are five kinds:
- Words of affection: spoken words, love notes or cards
- Acts of service: cooking a special meal, fixing a toy or other helpful task
- Gifts: something unexpected, such as bringing someone a memento from a trip
- Physical affection: hugs, kisses or hand-holding
- Time – quality time and one-on-one time