I had heard a million times over that when kids are asked about their day, the typical response is, “I dunno.”
“What did you do today?”
“What did you learn?”
“What did you do in class?”
Parents everywhere seem to have the same problem. They would love to hear all about their child’s day at school, but asking gets them nowhere.
Despite this, I knew my daughter would be different. You see, she’s precarious, articulate, and outspoken. When I dropped her at her first day of preschool, I was confident she would be bursting at the seams to tell me all about her three-hour day.
How little did I know…
When I picked her up, what I experienced was humbling, to say the least. My daughter was tired, despondent, and on the verge of a meltdown. Every day that I picked my daughter up from school, it was the same. Hopeful, I would try a different series of questions. Despite my best efforts, I would be met with resistance and sometimes big emotions.
Trial and Error
In fact, it took a lot of trial, error, and time. But I’ve finally figured out effective strategies to connect with my children when asking them about their day at school.
The first steps to asking about your child’s day and getting answers is approach.
Three years into this school thing and I now understand that two crucial pieces need to happen before I start asking about my kids’ day.
1. I give them snacks before I try to talk to them about anything.
By the time I pick them up from school, it’s been hours since they’ve had anything to eat. Also, some kids are so excited and stimulated at school that they may not have eaten as much as they should have. For example, my kindergartener barely eats his lunch despite having ample time and a big appetite. It isn’t until I pick him up that he finally eats some real food. Getting their blood sugar up right away is crucial.
2. Wait to take their lead before you dive into questions about their day.
The best analogy I can come up with is this. You know how you feel when you just need a moment to finish something and your child bombards you with requests?
“Can I have a cookie?”
“Can we go to the park?”
“How ’bout now?”
“How ’bout now?”
They feel the same when we ask them a series of questions right after school. But unlike us, our kids lack the self-awareness and emotional regulation to be able to tell us calmly that they need a minute. They tend to just react.
Having learnt this the hard way, now when I pick my kids up, I greet them. Then, I wait for them to talk first.
How to ask questions about your child’s day and actually get answers!
For younger children, it seems ‘yes or no’ questions are the best place to start. The reason? These sorts of questions require a response other than ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘Nothing.’ Some of my favorites include:
- Did you have a good day?
- Did you enjoy your lunch?
- Did you read a book during circle time?
- Was it good?
- Did you do any arts and crafts?
- Did you have gym class today?
- Did you laugh today?
- Did you do any puzzles?
- Did you have fun?
- Did you play with so-and-so?
Questions like these are a great prompt for subsequent open-ended questions. Another great starter is to ask your child how he would rate his day. Dyan Robson of And Next Comes L does this with her sons. She recommends this technique because it says a tremendous amount in one simple answer. Then, she follows up with questions about what led to the day getting that score.
If all else fails, focus on connecting with your child instead of asking them questions.
My kids can get quite tired and overstimulated after a long day at school. Sometimes the best course of action is to just be together.
Here are some basic and effective ways to connect after a day of school:
- If it’s not too late, go to the park and join in their play.
- Play board games, do puzzles, or color together. All three of these activities are calming and are a great way to enjoy one another’s company.
- Sit on the couch with a pile of books and read.
- Go up to your bed and invite the whole family in for a snuggle. Even if it’s just five minutes, everyone will leave feeling connected and happy.
Even if you don’t ask your children a single question, connecting and meeting their needs will likely lead to them opening up. It’s taken a lot of learning, but these strategies have helped us thoroughly!