‘How was school today?’ ‘Good.’
Asking your child about school can be frustrating if the answer is just a grunt or a single word. If this sounds familiar, try these tips to get the conversation flowing.
Try more interesting questions
If you ask your child the same question every day, you’re likely to get the same response. Try varying the conversation with some more interesting questions, such as:
- What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?
- What did you do today that made you proud?
- Who did you play with today?
- What games did you play with your friends?
- What did you learn about that you found interesting?
- What was the best part about today?
- What happened today that you wish you could have changed?
- What did you learn today that you did not know before?
- What was the most boring thing that happened today?
- Why are you looking forward to going to school tomorrow?
Note: some kids find questions about ‘the best / funniest / most boring’ thing difficult because they feel they have to work out which is the ‘correct’ answer. If this sounds like your child, try changing the phrasing:
- a good part instead of the best part
- a funny thing instead of the funniest thing
- a boring lesson instead of the most boring lesson.
It works for some!
When you were a child, did talking with an adult about school sometimes feel like an interrogation? That can happen when the adult asks all the questions, and the child does all the answering. Make it a two-way conversation by first sharing something yourself, and then asking your child a related question, for example:
- tell your child something funny that you saw, then ask if anything funny happened to them today
- share something that you learned, then ask your child if they learned anything interesting they could teach you
- mention a new slang word or abbreviation that you’ve come across and ask your child what it means (most kids enjoy the chance to tease their parents about being out-of-date!).
It might take a little time, but this approach will help you to have much richer conversations with your child, and develop a better understanding of each other’s lives!
Talk about the rest of life
Once our children start school, we can fall into the trap of focusing most of our conversations on school. We don’t know what our children have been doing all day (and how we can help), so naturally that’s what we want to ask about. Taking an interest in school is important, but we also need to remember that our kids still spend more time outside school than in it.
So make sure you’re still having conversations that have nothing to do with school – eg about their interests, your plans, what’s happening in the family, what’s happening in the wider world. Conversations like these are important to your relationship, your child’s feeling of value, and their sense of place in the world. Sharing family stories and histories also builds your child’s sense of connection, culture and belonging.