By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
All too often we pick up our kids from school and in response to our question, “How was your day?” we get the one-word answer of “Fine.” No details, no expression and most of the time, the conversation that never really began, comes to an end.
But, one of the best ways of building a relationship with your child is through conversation. As parents, it’s important for us to know what went well and how we can help. How is this possible with kids who don’t willingly offer details about their day?
Below are some tips for encouraging a meaningful conversation between you and your child.
Ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that allow for more than one-word answers. “Did you have fun at school?” can garner a quick “Yep,” but “Tell me about what you did in science class today,” or “What games did you play at recess?” need further explanation. For young kids, a statement such as, “Tell me about something that made you happy today,” can be all you need to get your little one talking.
Model a discussion you would like to have with your child. Start off the conversation by telling him about your day. “Today I went to lunch with my friend Nancy and she told me a really silly story about her dog Maddie.” Think of stories that your little one would find funny or would get him talking about something concrete that happened during his day, like what he ate for snack or a joke he heard from a friend.
Talk about topics that interest your child. Does your little one love to read? Ask what book he read in school that day. Is recess his favorite time of day? Ask what game he played or what unit they’re working on in gym class.
Use take-home papers and projects as a starting point for a conversation. As you pull out each piece of artwork, ask him to tell you why he drew certain shapes or chose specific colors. Was he able to create any animal out of clay or did everyone make bears? Children are often excited to talk about something they colored or wrote and take pride in sharing details with parents.
Eat a meal together. Schedules can be busy, but try to fit in one meal together as a family; it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Use this time to turn off electronics and just enjoy each other’s company. Make family meal-time part of your routine when your child is young and it will encourage healthy conversation throughout his life, even into the challenging teenage years.
Play a game. Challenge your child to think of one good thing and one not-so-good thing that happened during the day. This allows your child to celebrate the positive, while feeling comfortable opening up about uncomfortable situations and shows him that he is in a safe space, with the support of a parent who will help him problem-solve.
With a bit of practice, conversation will come naturally to your child and you, as the parent, can feel more included in his day, even when you’re apart.
What questions help engage your child?