School talk - digging deeper

5 - 11 years
Father and son

If you’ve tried the tips in our ‘How was school today’ article and the conversation still isn’t flowing, don’t despair! Use these tips to dig deeper into what’s going on.

Talk about when to talk

At the end of the school day, your child has just experienced six hours of mental, physical and social stimulation. Some kids are energised and chatty, but others are exhausted. They simply aren’t ready to talk about school (or anything else).

If this is the typical pattern for your child, pick a moment when they are happy and energetic and open a conversation about it. For example:

  • I notice that you don’t like me asking about school when I pick you up. I remember that I was always tired after school and I just needed to be left alone for an hour. After that, I’d be ready to talk to mum and dad about my day. Is that how you feel?

If your child says yes, talk about when they would prefer to chat with you, for example:

  • after they’ve had a snack
  • after they’ve had some time by themselves to unwind
  • when you’re doing something else together – eg walking the dog, cooking dinner, driving to school in the morning.

Conversations like these develop your teen’s emotional intelligence by helping them to be aware of the relationship between energy levels, moods and feelings. It’s also great role modelling.

Take the pressure off

When our children are tired and not up to talking, even a simple greeting like How are you? can feel to them like pressure. Try using a statement rather than a question – it takes the pressure off, while still showing that you care. Here are some ideas:

  • Hi, welcome home! I’ve put a snack for you on the table.
  • Hi, it sure is hot, isn’t it! Come have a cold drink to cool down.
  • Hi, I hope your class talk went well today. Tell me about it later when you’re ready.

Chit chat

Do you feel awkward travelling in silence with your child if they don’t want to talk? Then don’t! Even if you’re the only one talking and your child seems not to be listening, your ‘idle chatter’ is still showing that you care, building your relationship, and role modelling conversation skills.

Sometimes your child might join in the conversation, but don’t push for it. Just chat away about something like:

  • your day – a meeting you had, something you read, a conversation you had
  • family plans – what’s for dinner, what you’re going to do on the weekend, when your family are coming to visit
  • thoughts, memories and conversations (especially about your child)
    I saw a toddler on the bus today and it reminded me of when we took you on your first bus trip. Do you remember? You were so excited…

If you don’t feel like talking, that’s okay too!

  • I’m exhausted today. Let’s listen to some music on the way home.

Be a good listener

When your child does feel like talking, it’s important to make sure that they enjoy the conversation, so remember the ‘golden rules’ of listening:

  • show your child that you are giving them your attention
    Let me put my phone down so that I can listen properly.
  • listen to and empathise with their feelings
    Wow, that must have been exciting!
  • avoid the temptation to tell them what to do
    That must have been stressful. How did it make you feel?

Good luck!

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Last modified
18 April 2020