“How Was School?”: Getting Past One Word Answers to That Dreaded Question

“There are many ways to get children to talk about their school day and even give you a clue as to what’s going on in their world,” says Dr. Michele Borba, parenting expert.

The trick is to use a few different communication strategies. Here are some to get your child talking:

Give her some space

After coming home from a full work day, don’t you sometimes just want to take five to ten minutes to relax and disconnect from whatever happened during the workday? Well the same goes for your kid. Dr. Borba advises waiting at least half an hour before you start asking them about their day.

“Give your child a chance to decompress and have a snack, take off the backpack, and just breathe,” Borba says.

Ask open-ended questions

This one isn’t tough. Ask questions that require real answers, not one word responses — at least not to open the conversation; what you ask when the ball is rolling is up to you. To get that initial roll, try these ideas by Liz Evans who lists fun and unconventional questions you can ask your child about school: “25 ways to ask your kids ‘So how was school today?’ (Without asking so how was school today?”

A question like number 12 — “if an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed up someone who would you want them to take?” — allows kids “a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before,” Evans says.

Listen, listen, listen!

This is where things get tough. Let your child tell her story. Try to keep pauses to a minimum. Sounds easy, but we often get it wrong and — with the best of intentions — are quick to jump in and offer our thoughts (or worse) our solutions.

“Your child needs a chance to vent, and [she] can't hear advice until [she vents],” says Clinical Psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. “Then [she needs] a chance to figure out [her] own solutions, which is how [she’ll develop] confidence and competence.”

Engage

This goes hand in hand with the previous section. It’s a delicate balancing act.

What this boils down to is interest. Show your child you’re interested in what she has to say. Give her your full attention, and put aside your phone or tablet.

Dr. Borba recommends using the “stretching method” to get your child to elaborate on details and go on with her story.

“Don’t push or prod but instead use these type of comments: ‘Really?’ ‘Uh huh?’ ‘I don’t believe it!’ ‘Wow!’ They’re not threatening and invite a talker to open up.”

Remember

It should be a sharing experience; don’t be afraid to share with your child about your day to help her open up. And it should, above all, be a conversation. Respect what she says and what she shares.

Sources:

Artemenko, Sherry. Tips to Get Your Child to Talk About Her School Day. Parents Choice. Retrieved from Parents Choice.

Borba, Michelle (2014). How to Get Kids to Open Up About Their School Day. Michele Borba. Retrieved from Micheleborba.com.

Evans, Liz (2014). 25 Ways To Ask Your Kids “So how was school today?” Without Asking them “So how was school today?” Simple Simon and Company. Retrieved from Simple Simon and Company.

Markham, Laura (2014). Foolproof Strategies for Getting Kids to Talk. Aha Parenting. Retrieved from Aha Parenting!

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