We’ve all been there: “Hi honey! How was your day?”
- “Um. I don’t remember.”
Broad, open-ended questions can be hard for kids to get their heads around. With school starting again, it’s time to start fresh and get the conversation going. Often, it’s as easy as simply rephrasing what you’re asking. Instead of “How was your day?” try asking your child something more specific, like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What did you read in class today?” or “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” as a starting point for more back and forth.
Here are some tips to get your kids to answer questions using more than one word.
- Turn off all distractions. We’ve all seen the zombie stare that happens if a TV or computer is on in the vicinity of a child. Hit the “off” button and engage kids in doing something they enjoy while chatting. Bake cookies, build a fort, go for a walk, play with toys or find a fun, relaxing pastime to take the pressure off. Conversation will come easier this way.
- Make the most of mealtime. Conversing over a meal is a life skill that is, hopefully, established in childhood. Start dinner off by letting everyone share the best part of his or her day, and let the conversation flow.
- Be your own best example. Your children will model their social skills after you, so it’s important to practice what you preach. Initiate conversations with your significant other, or friends and family so your children see you engaged in asking questions as well as listening. Also, help your kids out by sharing some questions they can use to get conversation going. “Why don’t you ask your grandmother what she did today?” for example.
- Use context clues. Kids’ memories are still developing, so it is entirely possible that their “I don’t remember,” holds water. Stay in the know by keeping in regular contact with their teacher, babysitter and other parents so you know the right questions to ask. By asking something like “Who did you swing with during recess today?” you’re likely to get more details than you would by inquiring, “How was recess today?”
- Be aware. If your child isn’t comfortable answering your questions, give him or her some space, but try and find out why those questions cause anxiety or discomfort. Offer options, such as, “Would you like to talk about this later today?” You may have more luck when a better mood sets in, or your child has had a chance to give the topic some thoughts.