What happened at school today? Nothing.

Finding out how your child’s school day was can be difficult, try these tips to start great conversations.

School is starting and all across the nation parents will be asking their children the same question, “What happened at school today?”, and majority of kids will respond indicating that nothing happened at school. Where are the details? Parents want details!   

Getting kids to share what happened during the school day can be difficult and frustrating. Child care expert Lynn Gibson, offers suggestions for starting conversations that will elicit more than a single word when you ask that important question. Putting all your questions on hold is the first order of business. Give your kids some breathing space when they first get home, they have been following different expectations all day and need to switch out of school mode. Be patient if your child has some ornery moments, eventually they will be ready to share their day.   

The period of time between arriving home, having dinner and bedtime is very hectic. Take some time to allow your child to relax and catch their breath to benefit the remainder of the night.

When it comes to asking your kids questions about their day, first ask yourself if you have time to listen. Your child is not on the witness stand so refrain from firing one question after another at them. Less can be more when getting information about their day.  

In addition to Lynn Gibson’s conversation starters mentioned above, a blog from Simple Simon & Company offers up a great list of 25 questions to ask kids, here are a few to get you started: 

  • What was the best (and the worst) thing that happened at school today? 
  • Who is the funniest person in your class and why is he/she so funny?     
  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.     
  • What word did your teacher say most today?    
  • How did you help somebody today?    
  • How did somebody help you today?    
  • Is there anyone in your class that needs a time out? 
  • Where do you play the most at recess? 

Do not get in the habit of asking the same four questions every day or this important conversation will just stall out after the first few days of school and you are back to hearing that nothing happens at school.     

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, a Speech-language pathologist and founder of playonwords.com, suggests:  

  • Art work and activity papers that come home are great conversation starters. In fact, a research study by Marvin and Privratsky (1999) showed that when four-year-old children brought home their art projects, they talked significantly more about school activities than when they did not bring home artwork.  
  • Post a copy of the school schedule so you know which day is gym, library day or art. You can ask specific questions about each of those days to keep the conversation going. Example questions may be asking if your child picked out a new library book or asking what they played in gym.
  • Many kids won’t tell you much until they are all tucked in at night. If this is the case for your child, plan this into the schedule so you can enjoy this one-on-one time and discover what may be on your child’s mind. 
  • Dr. Charles Fay suggests that kids are more likely to talk when they are engaged in something fun like playing a board game, going on a walk or helping in kitchen. The spot light is off the child to report school happenings and focus is on the activity, which helps them feel comfortable share what they experienced during school.

Providing opportunities for conversations, listening and asking the right questions will foster communication and enhance your relationships with your children. These skills will also help children make their way in the world. For more information on healthy relationships, communication and parenting skills, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.  

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