Scratching your head about what's happening at school? It's frustrating when kids answer questions about their day with monosyllable answers like "fine" and "nothing." Here are 10 ways to encourage conversation.
1. Move Past One-Word Answers
Ask questions like "Who did you play with at recess today? What did you do during recess?" or "How did the spelling test go? I know you were worried about it."
2. Hang Out Together
Rather than putting your child through an interrogation the minute he walks through the door after school, take a walk or shoot hoops together.
3. Play Together
Without any prompting from me, my kindergartner seems more inclined to share little anecdotes about his day when we play Legos together. Play cars, blocks, games, color, or do a project together.
Ask your child to write a couple of lines in a journal about anything funny or interesting that occurred that day, or ask her to draw a picture if she isn't quite writing yet.
5. Dine Together
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), three in four teens talk to their parents about what's happening in their lives when they eat dinner frequently with their family and report one and half times less stress. Need ideas to spark dinnertime conversation? Check out the book 201 Questions to Ask Your Kids by Dr. Pepper Schwartz. The book also includes questions kids can ask you!
6. Play "Two Truths and a False"
Engage your child's imagination while learning about his day. Lori Poland, a former elementary school teacher and a mom to a six-year-old son, suggested this game: tell your kids that you're going to share three things that happened that day to you, but one isn't real. Ask them if they can guess which one is false. The more outrageous the false is, the better. Before you know it, your kids will be laughing and wanting you to try to guess their two truths and a false.
7. Chat During Car Rides
As busy parents we're almost always shuttling our children from one activity to the next. Chatting while headed somewhere can lessen the intensity of face to face conversations and create space for your child to bring up issues that are weighing on her mind. Do you carpool after school? Listen in on your kids' conversations with their peers and you'll learn all kinds of information about what happens during the school day.
Pay attention when your child makes an off-hand remark about a teacher or a classmate he's having trouble with. He may be looking for a way to broach a conversation, but isn't sure how. In their book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish encourage parents to acknowledge a child's feelings, without lecturing or discussing the other person's point of view.
9. Read Together
Oftentimes books bring up issues that your child might be dealing with at school. For example, if the characters in the book are having trouble with a bully, ask your child if he knows any bullies at school and discuss appropriate solutions. Relate your own school experiences.
10. Talk Daily
We're all busy, but even if it's just for a few minutes before lights out, find time to talk to your child about her day — just the two of you.
Whatever works for your family, find ways to connect daily and create stronger, more trusting relationships in the process.