How to Get Your Child to Talk about Their Day
An interview with Betsy Brown Braun by Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC
It’s well within typical that kids don’t like, or just don’t plain feel like, sharing information about their day. Kids returning home, at the end of school or childcare, are processing all sorts of things – sights, lights, sounds, and social interactions.
Just like us grown-ups, every kid is different. It’s up to the parent to understand exactly who their child is in order to figure out the best way to get some feedback about their day. Here are nine different approaches to help coax that longed for information out of your child! — Betsy Brown Braun
Space: Kids need to feel your love and connection. Creating a loving environment puts your child at ease, and more willing to share. If you’re driving home, playing your child’s favorite music sends the message you love them without saying anything at all.
Downtime: After picking your child up from school or daycare, give your child time to chill. When they sit down in your car, or you begin your walk home, your child gets to exhale after a long day of behaving. Being in the car, is like being home – a safe place where they get to let their thoughts wander, and not have to do anything pressing. Some kids really need silence and time to themselves, alone.
Don’t probe: Don’t ask intrusive questions. For example, if you’re troubled about your child’s social situation at school, asking your child who s/he sat next to at lunch or played with at recess is too direct of a question. It sends the message you’re concerned about something they too might be concerned about, and it can shut-down their willingness to talk. For information, you need to go through the “side-door.” That is, don’t ask straightforward questions. In fact, you can share a story about your childhood, when you had a tough time finding a friend at recess, and what you did to solve the problem. This might encourage your child to open up without asking him/her to.
Witness: When you observe something at school that jumps out at you, ask your child about that. For example, “What do these different colored trash cans mean? Do you use them during lunch?” Or, “It rained so much today! What did your class do instead of playing outside?” This might lead to further discussion about other things at school that matter to your child.
Yes/No questions: When asking questions, ask open ended ones, like, “What happened during art class today?” or “What games did you play at recess?” Asking questions that can have a yes/no answer will yield just that.
Be specific: Don’t ask, “How was your day?” The answer will likely be, “Good.” Ask a question that’s more specific, like, “When you did the science experiment, what happened?”
You share: Share details about your day. Share why you might feel confused or frustrated about something. This might engage your child in discussing your life, or helping you figure out answers to your questions. All this might lead to a conversation about his/her life. Typically, the first thing the child shares about his or her day is the most important thing that happened (in his/her mind).
Chatty Cathy/Charlie: There’s always a parent or two in the know. If you have unanswered questions that you can’t seem to get out of your child, get in touch with that parent for details about the classroom – they’ll know the answers!
Feelings: Notice your child’s expression. If s/he seems sad, you can say something like, “Is there something on your mind? Seems like something might be bothering you.” Then be quiet. Allow your child to answer, or not answer. Don’t push for an answer.
Betsy Brown Braun is the bestselling author of, You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing your 4 to 12 Year-Old Child (HarperCollins, 2010) and the award winning Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents (HarperCollins, 2008). She’s also a child development and behavior specialist, parent educator and multiple birth parenting consultant with 40 years of experience in public and private early childhood and elementary education.
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