Kids are back to school and with that the infamous question: “How was school today?” Count yourself lucky if you get an “ok” or “fine”. Every day tons of us suffer from not being able to communicate effectively with our children. As a mother of 3 and a Parent Educator, I’ve had to learn how to communicate with young age children especially after school. As parents, we all want to know: Are they having fun? Are they playing nicely with others? Are they nurturing healthy relationships with their friends and peers? And the one that worries us the most, are they eating lunch?
Here are some tips to get the communication between you and your child started:
1. Be mindful: Know that they have been sitting for most part of the day (at least 6 hours!), some days they may be frustrated about the day and not ready to talk. Bite your tongue and resist the urge to wear your FBI hat. Do not interrogate them. You may want to wait until dinner or bed time to ask. In the meantime, concentrate in making the time fun and relaxing. Ex.“What would you like to eat for dinner?”
2. Ask open ended questions and be specific: “Tell me about something new you learned in Math today?”, “Where is the coolest place in the school? Why?”, “Who is the funniest person in your class? Why?”.
3. Share something about your day and ask about theirs: “I had a tuna sandwich for lunch, what about you?”, “I am getting ready for a meeting tomorrow and need to create an agenda, when is your next exam and what is it going to include?.
4. Use their artwork as a conversation starter: “Which technique did you use here?”, “What were you feeling when you drew this?”.
5. Ask silly/fun questions: “Tell me something that made you laugh today”. “If you can be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach and how would you teach it?”.
6. Know the school schedule: “Today is Thursday, tell me about the new song you are learning in music class”.
7. Don’t forget the “not so nice” questions: “Tell me about something that made you sad today.”, “Is there someone in your class that needs a Time-Out? Why?”. “What can you do when you feel sad or frustrated in school?”.
8. Listen: As soon as your child gets in the car, stop whatever you are doing, and be present in the moment. Let them be the first ones to say anything and do not come up with conclusions before you hear the entire story. Children gain confidence as they relate their day and you affirm them.
Be aware of signs. Your child may be showing of more than just having a bad day. Remember to stay in constant communication with the teacher. Teaming with the teacher helps the child be successful because… It takes a village!
Nilmari Donate is the founder of HKC Parenting and School Consulting Services and the President of Happy Kids Chicago, Inc. She holds a Bachelor in Public Health and a Master in Parenting Education and Support from DePaul University. She is the mother of three young bilingual and multicultural children, one dog named Kimo and lives in Chicago.