How can you talk to your child about their day?

Talking to your child about their day helps parents know what is happening in their child’s daily events.

With a little work you can get your child talking and sharing about their daily activities.
With a little work you can get your child talking and sharing about their daily activities.

All parents have heard the one- or two-word response to their question, “How was your day at school?” Sometimes it was “good”, “fine” or just “OK,” and the response to, “What did you learn today?” is usually “nothing.” Communicating with your child can be frustrating at times, but it is a great way to take an interest in what happens to your child during the day and can help children develop good communication skills that will enable them to talk to other kids, teachers or adults.

How can you engage your child in conversation and learn more about their daily events? Michigan State University Extension recommends these easy tips to try with your child:

  • Give them your full attention. Adults are busy these days and electronic devices can be a distraction with all their sounds, alarms and noise. Turn off or silence electronic devices and put them away. Try talking somewhere or someplace that is comfortable. Be sure to make eye contact as you are talking.
  • Listen fully: It can be hard to slow down and listen and not think about what to say next. Give your child time to respond and listen to what they are not only saying, but how they are saying things. If you have a question, ask it and try and rephrase what they just told you. This will help you know if you are hearing them correctly.
  • Talk with, not at. Remembering to talk with your child and not at your child can be a hard thing to do in our busy lives. However, remember they have their own concerns, stresses, thoughts and feelings. What might not be a big deal to us can be a very big deal to them. Try not to label things as silly or childish; instead, talk about how your child feels and help them think about how they might be able to solve their problem or help them think of other options or solutions.
  • Be available. When your child comes to talk to you, make every effort to make yourself available. If you can’t stop what you are doing at that moment, schedule a time to talk with them specifically so they know you are there and want to give them your undivided attention.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Giving children the opportunity to respond to open-ended questions will allow them to direct the conversation. Instead of saying, “How was your day?” which can be answered with one word, try things like, “What was your favorite part of the day?” or “What was a challenge you overcame?”
  • Be non-judgmental. It can be hard for parents not to give their opinions and judgements, but being open and listening and helping children talk through their ideas, questions or concerns will help them know they can come to you about any topic and talk things through without worrying about being judged.
  • Talk every day. Use everyday moments such as commute time, dinner time, bed time or other times when you are alone with your child to talk with them. Let them share what they are thinking about and you will have a better understanding of the things that are on your child’s mind.

It can be frustrating to communicate with your child when they only give you one-word answers. However, with a little work you can get your child talking and sharing about their daily activities. Developing good communication with your child helps them learn how to communicate for future success and lets you know what is happening in the life of your child.

For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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