By Amber Russell, LCSW, Courier & Press, Oct. 22, 2016 –
Does having a conversation with your child ever feel like pulling teeth? After picking up my 5-year old from kindergarten, I like to ask him about his day. It usually goes something like this:
Mom: “How was school today?”
Mom: “What all did you do at school today?”
Son: “I will tell you later. I just don’t want to talk right now.”
Sometimes he’ll say, “Why do you always ask me about my day?” I reply, “Because I am interested in it, and I love you.”
Some days he is just not up for talking, but other times I have found it’s all in how you word the question.
Instead of asking, “How was school today?” here are a few conversation starters I have used:
- Who did you play with at recess today, and what did you play?
- What’s the best (or worst) thing that happened to you at school today?
- What was the hardest thing you had to do in school today?
- Who did you sit by at lunch today, and what did you talk about?
- If you got one wish at school, what would it be?
I talk with my son after school because that time works best for our schedule; however, every family is different, and maybe another time is better for you.
Here are some specific questions I like to ask before school:
- What three things do you want to accomplish today?
- What class do you think will be the most fun and why?
- What is one thing you can do better today than you did yesterday?
To get an older child or teen to open up, make sure the conversation is a two-way street where you are actually talking and sharing and not just firing off questions. No one, child or adult, likes to feel interrogated.
Try writing out some questions on cards ahead of time and let your child pick some to ask that you have to answer. Sometimes if you open up about a past experience it will make the child feel more comfortable to share.
Here are some examples:
- What was your most embarrassing moment in school?
- What was the worst or funniest date you ever went on?
- Who was your best friend in school, and what did you like about them?
Playing games such as “High and Low” around the dinner table can also stimulate conversation. Every family member shares their high and low points for the day. You could also have each family member share one thing they are grateful for and a goal for the next day.
As a Youth First school social worker, I talk with students every day. In my experience, even though kids seem annoyed with adults asking questions, deep down they want you to ask. It demonstrates that you care. Most kids have a friend whose parents don’t ask about their day, and believe me, they wish their parents would.
Even if a conversation with your child doesn’t go as planned, making the effort shows support and demonstrates that we want to be involved in kids’ lives. Talking with your children will not only influence their decisions now, it will have an effect on their future parenting styles as well.