Tips to Get Your Kids Talking
It is natural to be curious about what your child did when they come home from school every day. If your child is like most school-age kids, he or she may not volunteer any information about what’s going on at school. Kids that are in pre-school and early grade school are usually more eager to share their experiences than older children, if you really want to know what’s happening, you need to ask your child some questions. Keep in mind that the information you get from your child often depends on how you ask the questions.
Always opt to ask an open-ended question
Asking a “yes” or “no” question such as “how was school today,” will probably prompt your child to reply with a one-word response such as “fine” or “ok.” If you really want to know how his or her day went, you will probably get more information if you ask open-ended questions. The following are examples of open-ended questions:
- What did you do at school today?
- Tell me what you learned in math class today?
- What was the best thing about your school day?
Starting the conversation by sharing your experience is always a great idea
Sharing what school was like when you were a student is often a great way to help get your child talking. For example, if you want to get a feel for whether your child may be a victim of bullying, you could frame a question this way: “When I was in school, there were certain kids that picked on other kids–I was wondering if that happens at your school?” If your child answers yes, but does not elaborate, you might ask a more probing question such as “has anyone at school said or done things to you or a friend that made you feel afraid or ashamed?
Your child may still give you a short answer. However, you can follow up by reassuring your child that he or she should not be afraid to talk to you, a teacher, or a counselor if someone does something that makes him or her uncomfortable.
Spend time to learn who your child’s friends at school are.
When you talk about school with your child you can find out who your child is spending time with. The following questions can provide some insight into your child’s circle of friends:
- What do you and your friends like to do when you have a break at school
- Who is your best friend at school?
- Who do you eat lunch with?
If you have a teenager you could ask questions like, “Who are you going to the football game with on Friday night?” You can also learn a lot about your child’s school experience by asking questions about teachers and staff. For example, you might ask “Does your principal ever visit your classroom?” or “Who is your favorite teacher?”
Look for the best time to ask questions about school
When talking with school-age kids about their school day, keep in mind that immediately after school may not be the best time to ask questions. After a long school day, most children are eager to get a snack, take a nap or unwind by playing outside or watching television before doing homework. One of the best times to talk about the day might be at the dinner table. Dinner time is perfect for sharing the events of the day, which is why eating together as a family as often as possible is important. In fact, it is quite common for children and parents to talk about school and share the events of the day over dinner
Of course, you know your child better than anyone, so you may have other strategies to get your child to talk about school. Just remember that encouraging your child to share information about his or her school day is a way to get ahead of issues that could impact your child’s success. It is also a way to keep the lines of communication open so that your child feels comfortable coming to you when she or she is experiencing problems.