When your child comes home from school it’s natural to be curious about his or her 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. Younger children are usually more eager to share their experiences than older children, but if you really want to know what’s happening, you may need to ask your child some questions. However, keep in mind that the information you get from your child often depends on how you ask the questions.

Ask open-ended questions

If you ask a “yes” or “no” question such as “how was school today,” your child will probably 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:

  • Tell me what you learned in math class today?
  • What did you do at school today?
  • What was the best thing about your school day?

Begin the conversation by sharing your experiences

Another strategy to get your child talking about what’s going on at school is to share what school was like when you were a student. 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 you 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 counselor if someone does something that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Learn about your child’s relationships at school

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:

  • Who is your best friend at school?
  • Who do you eat lunch with?
  • What do you and your friends like to do when you have a break at school

Of course, if you have a teenager, you could ask questions like “Who is going to the dance 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 “Who is your favorite teacher?” or “Does your principal ever visit your classroom?”

Find the right time to talk about the school day

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.

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