When your kids get home from school and you ask them about their day, are you left with a bland “good” or “fine”? Those answers make most of us feel out of the loop with our littles and yes, maybe even a little irritated. We want more.
Finding a way to connect and share experiences when kids spend a chunk of their day in school is one of the real challenges, and on the flip side, part of the excitement, of parenting, says Chicago social worker Caren Minkoff.
Communication takes work, she says.
So getting beyond “good” and “fine” can be a big hurdle, particularly in today’s busy families.
“More and more, I observe adults and kids partially focused on their phone or tablet and partially focused on the conversation, and it makes for some pretty bad conversations,” says Laura Nathan, a kindergarten teacher in Chicago.
“I think kids know when you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Make eye contact, ask follow-up questions about a story they tell and listen intently.”
Where to start
Colleen Manuel, a pediatric social worker at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, recommends asking open-ended questions: “What was your favorite thing that happened today?” “Tell me about one thing that was challenging for you and one thing you felt very accomplished at,” and “What is one thing that made you feel happy today?”
“Focus not only on the basic aspects of school, but explore other components like peers, teachers, food and recess,” she says.
Minkoff recommends giving kids time to talk without being interrupted and without giving your opinion or advice when it’s not requested.
“Allow them to answer before asking another question, and I can’t emphasize enough to listen,” she says.
Keep in mind that even though you are eager to talk, right after school isn’t the best time to chat because kids need time to decompress and you might be juggling dinner and other duties.
Family dinners and weekly family activities are great times to connect.
Minkoff also recommends that if your child is able to read and write to use a journal as a tool to communicate what is happening in their lives.