Our kids spend a lot of their day at school. And, if you’re a working parent like me, you drop your kids off at school at 8am and then don’t see them again until 6pm or later. It can be difficult to get a clear snapshot of what’s going on in the life of your child – no matter what grade they’re in. Trying to get homework done, eating dinner, getting ready for bed, and all the other night time routines don’t help to increase communication between us and our kids either.
And, I’m guilty. I all too often find myself asking my kids “How was your Day?”
But, in reality, that doesn’t get the best and most informative response, does it? Answers like “fine” or “good” are the norm with a question so vague and closed. I’ve found some questions that help me get better answers from my kids. Five of them, in fact. Some of these I’ve written about before in other contexts…but they also work for ascertaining what happened at school in the life of your child.
1. What was the favorite part of your day? This helps them think back on what was exciting. Maybe it was a field trip or a yummy lunch. It could be time at recess or working out a really tough algebra problem. Spend some time celebrating that something good happened that day and don’t let them off the hook without an answer. Something good had to happen during the day. Help them find it and celebrate it. Our natural tendency is often to find the bad or frustrating parts of life and we should make it a priority to pick out the highlights of the day/week.
2. What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday? The answer here may be elusive, but if it’s asked regularly, you’ll be impressed how this can be a fun conversation to have. It gives you a peek into their academic world and if they say “nothing” too often, it may signal a larger problem that you’ll need to address. If your child is struggling to come up with something, just go subject by subject until they land on something. It doesn’t have to be big either. Maybe they learned something about their teacher or a friend. It could be as simple as that they learned that they don’t like the pizza that they get in school lunch.
3. Was there anything that happened today that upset you and what was it? I have found that I internalize bad things that happen in my day and it’s not healthy for me. The more I talk about frustrations, hurts, and stressful moments – the better able I am to deal with them. The same is true for our kids. Your children should know that YOU are someone they feel comfortable talking to about their problems and hurts. The hope here would be that your kids wouldn’t have something every day – but when they do have something, you take it seriously and spend some time talking with them and unpacking it with them so they can process it and feel loved and supported.
4. Who did you _______ (play with at recess, sit with at lunch, etc.)? We should know who it is that our kids are spending their time with. This information will help us know if they’re making good choices or risky ones. Use this question as a way to get to know their friends. Ask follow up questions like “What is it that you like about him/her?” or “You don’t talk about _____ any more, are you not friends?” Also, when you’re a chaperone at field trips or attending a football game, you can then make it a point to meet the kids and their parents to start new relationships/friendships.
5. What else do I need to know about your day? Now, this question may seem as vague as “How was your day?”, but it’s not. There are things that your kids experience that they’ll want to tell you that don’t fit nicely into one of the previous four categories. And, surprisingly, I have found that this question has opened the door to some interesting conversations between me and my kids.
Are these questions ones that you ask your kids daily? If not, start with a couple of them tonight. Comment below and let us know the impact these questions have on your family…