“How was school today?”
It’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ve had that conversation with your child at some point in their school career. It can be frustrating when you genuinely want to hear some highlights from your child’s day, but even when you ask them open-ended questions, they don’t give you much of anything to discuss.
Pushing through the challenge of sharing a little bit about their experiences every day is good for both your child and you. Oftentimes they would really like to connect with you about what they’re going through, but they don’t know where to start.
Maybe, as they get older, they need to be able to trust that you won’t overreact or criticize them for something they share with you.
When they’re younger, often they just need help mentally sorting through everything that happened that day to find something they’re interested in talking about with you.
Being able to perform this process of sorting through the day and picking a couple of highlights or lowlights to share is a cognitive skill that you can help your child develop. Here are some ways you can work on this together:
- Eat dinner together.
You could probably guess that was the first tip, but it’s common advice for a reason. The problem is that eating together with no devices can seem boring or even stressful if it’s not already one of your family habits.
If you’re trying to set this as a new standard, don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself or your kids to make it a special time. Make sure there’s something on the table they really like to eat. Try lighting a candle when you sit down together to create a peaceful atmosphere.
If you’re working on manners, choose one each week to focus on. Have your child take one bite of everything on their plate, but don’t insist they clean it. Let them be excused when they’re done eating.
Do everything you can to be relaxed and engaged during this time, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Simply creating this routine will help your child be more likely to want to participate in a conversation about their day.
- Talk about your memories from school
This doesn’t have to be an everyday thing, but reminiscing about your own good and bad experiences in school as a child can help you seem more relatable, and it can encourage your child to start sharing more about her own experiences.
- Talk with your child’s teacher
Check in every so often to see how your child is doing and how her demeanor is during the day, how she’s doing socially as well as academically, and whether the teacher has any questions or concerns. This will help you ask your child more informed questions or start conversations knowing what’s going on at school.
- Make it a routine
Talk time doesn’t only have to happen at the dinner table. If it’s less natural there or if it’s not part of your family routine because of scheduling or other reasons, try making yourself available for conversation at another point during the evening routine.
It can be hard to intentionally slow down and chat with your child when you’re focused on doing dishes, making lunches, checking homework, and preparing everything for the next day, but building in 10-15 minutes a night can make a big difference.
Try tying talk time to another activity, such as brushing your child’s hair, saying goodnight, or reading a story before bed.
- Share about your day too
Choosing to share a couple things that happened to you each day provides a good model for your child about how to talk about her own day. You might feel like your day was boring, but if you start doing this when your child is young, she’ll probably be more interested than you might expect!
Helping your child open up about their day fosters bonding and closeness between the two of you, alerts you to any problems going on in your child’s life, and sets the stage for a good relationship throughout their teen and young adult years. This will help them in their future relationships and friendships too.
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