Does this sound familiar?
“How was your day?” … “Fine.”
“What did you do at school?” … “Nothing.”
It can be hard to get children to open up about what’s going on in their world, especially after a long day at school. Here are a few different communication strategies you can try. Find ones that work best for your family and then practice until they become part of your daily routine. This process takes time but can lead to more satisfying conversations in the long run.
Strategies to Try:
Wait at least a half an hour
After a long day at school wait at least 30 minutes to trying to engage in a conversation. Give your child a chance to take off the backpack, relax, and have a snack.
Ask open-ended questions
“Do you have homework?” or “Did you give your speech?” are questions that only invite a yes or no response. So try to pose open ended questions. Get creative! (There is a list of examples below.)
The moment your child starts to engage in conversation, stop what you are doing, and give your full attention. It can be hard to tear yourself away from what you’re doing to focus on a child’s question or comment, but your response can either encourage or shut down the conversation. Don’t forget to look interested!
Listen! And stretch the conversation…
Don’t talk, listen! Try comments like “Really?” “Uh-huh?” “I don’t believe it!” “Wow!” to stretch the conversation. They are non-threatening and invite the child to open up. You can also reflect back what the child is saying so they know you understand, and then be quiet so they can talk more. Child: “I played on the swing.” You: “You played on the swing.” The trick is to repeat the tidbit in a matter-of-fact but interested way to get your child to open up and add more.
Try to listen without judgement
Pushing, prodding, demanding, coaxing, lecturing, and threatening are sure ways to end conversations. Questions that begin with “Why” often make kids defensive. “Why did you wear that?” won’t work nearly as well as, “What do you think most of the kids will be wearing to the theater?”
Resist the urge to jump in with solutions and advice
Your child needs a chance to vent and can’t hear advice until she does. Then she needs a chance to figure out her own solutions, which is how she develops confidence and competence. When we can reflect feelings and then help children brainstorm solutions, kids find us more useful to talk to — and they’re more likely to seek us out when they have problems.
Take advantage of indirect communication
Kids often open more in the car, on a walk, or in the dark — all times when eye contact is limited. Remember that these are great times to get kids talking. Another opportunity for indirect communication is when their friends are over or in your car. Just keep quiet and listen. Your child knows you’re there, of course, but often is more willing to talk than if you were speaking directly.
Questions a child might answer at the end of a long school day:
What made you laugh today?
Did anything silly happen?
Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
What is the nicest thing you did for someone else?
Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
What games did you play at recess?
Does everyone have a friend at recess?
Who did you sit with at lunch?
Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
Did you help anyone today?
Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
Who inspired you today?
What is something that surprised you?
What is something that challenged you?
What made you feel proud?
How were you brave today?
Will you teach me a song you learned at school?
What was your least favorite part of the day?
Tell me something good (or three!) that happened today.
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Do you have a teenager? Huffington Post has some great ideas about starting the conversation with your teenage children. Take a look here – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/28-ways-to-ask-your-teens-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-how-was-school-today_b_5751546.html
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