Let's T-A-L-K About the School Day!

Easy strategies to create conversation with your kids

By Melissa Hucal September 12, 2013
It may be just a few weeks into the school year, but you've probably already had a conversation like this transpire in your home.

You: How was your day at school?
Your child: Fine.

(Awkward pause)

You: What did you learn today?
Your child: Nothing.

(Another pause … and maybe even an eye roll)

Sound familiar?

As parents, this scenario leaves us wondering if a way even exists to get our kids to open up and share some of the details of their day. The good news? There is! Here are four simple strategies that you can use to encourage your child to T-A-L-K about their school day (and maybe even other topics!).

T - Talk about your own day first.
Many times, kids arrive home from a long day at school tired and overwhelmed. A lot has happened in that seven hours! Give them some time to decompress when they get in the car or off the bus by simply talking about your own day. Sharing things as simple as "I bought a new snack to try out for lunch this week" or "I finished that big project at work" or "I met a friend for coffee" models the the types of things we want our children to share. When they see and hear us sharing about our days, they'll be more likely to imitate the behavior.

A - Ask specific questions.
Our typical questions (How was your day? What did you learn?) may be too vague for some kids. They're not be sure if we want to hear about the math test, the new student in their class or the food at lunch. Engage them in conversation by asking them more specific questions like "What was more interesting today - science or social studies?" or "What games did you play at recess?" You can also use the take-home papers from their backpacks or the books that they are reading to start a dialogue. "Tell me about the book you chose from the library today" or "What was most challenging about this worksheet?"

L - Listen.
If we fire off too many questions, our kids may think this is an interrogation and that they are in trouble. Ask a specific question, but then take the time to really listen to the answer. And before you ask that next follow up question, pause for a few seconds. Your child will likely fill in the brief silence with some more details on his/her own. While your child is talking, make certain that he/she is the focus. That means no smart phones, picking up the clutter in the house or reading the day's mail - at least for a few minutes. Of course, if there are activities, like prepping for dinner, that need to be done, soliciting your child's help is a great way to get some casual conversation going!

K - Know when to stop … and when to start back up again!
Watch for the non-verbal cues from your child to guide your conversation. After school may not always be the best time for them to share all the details of their day. They may over-stimulated from the day and just need some down time. But when you're snuggled in bed together after stories and the bedtime routine, it might be the perfect time to recount the highs and lows of the day.