It wasn’t until I became a parent with a school-aged child that I understood the parental desperation to understand what their kids did all day. After being away from our little people for hours, we are so excited to hear about all the amazing learning and growth our kids are doing at school. We wonder: What did you learn? What was fun? And the last thing our kids want to do is answer those questions. Instead, our enthusiastic questions are met with one word responses like “fine” or “ok”.
If this sounds like your family, here are some ways to approach the after school meeting and greeting as your kids get off the bus.
Talking to Kids About Their Day
As excited as you are to see your kids at the end of their day, they are longing to see you as well. But they may not show it. Don’t let that discourage you – instead pull out your sunniest voice and biggest smile. Hug, squeeze hands or whatever feels right. Sometimes kids, who have bottled up their feelings, fears, and big emotions all day, may not be ready or able to share your excitement. That’s OK, you are excited to see them and that is all they need to know.
Silence is ok
While adults get a commute to downshift from work to home, kids don’t always get this time. Your little one will let you know if they want to talk or not. Sometimes your post-school conversation will be more satisfying to you both if you delay for an hour or until after snack. If I notice my kids needing some down time, I’ll say no about playing with friends and instead encourage them to go build on Minecraft for a bit. Yep, you heard me, I do encourage my kids to play video games or iPad apps to have some “me” time.
Share a mommy and me journal
Some kids are not overly verbal, so sharing a journal that can be exchanged at the end of the night is a wonderful way to stay connected with your child. You can find a host of them on amazon, specific to son or daughter, which prompt conversation and keep you both involved in each others lives. Here are some great journals to get you started. Click below to learn more.
Ask open ended questions
Try to expand your question set beyond, “How was your day?” and ask about a particular class or activity you know your child likes or was working on that day. I always ask my child about their special activity such as library, music, art or P.E., which usually gets things started. If there is something specific you need to know about, such as a test or project – ask about it in a straight forward way. Looking in your child’s school folder can often give you direction on how they day went as well.
Sometimes kids will give you little tidbits of information you can expand upon with some thoughtful questions. Be a careful listener and ask follow up questions to draw out the details in a light and casual way. Not all people want advice when talking about what is going on. Listening is a skill we ask of our kids and we should also give back to them. You can also practice your listening skills on one of the 102 ideas to date your kids here.
Tell kids about YOUR day
Sometimes the best approach is to shift gears and take the focus off kids. If you find all you’re getting are one word responses or just grumbling, bring out your best cheery voice and share what you did all day. Often, when bogged down in the throes of their tasks, kids forget that you’re out there making your way too. I find now my kids ask me about my day just like I ask them. I love sharing what I did the whole day and getting their perspective.
After School Conversation Starters
Sometimes we need some new tools in our toolbox to punch up the after school debriefs. Try some of these new conversation starters to break the after school ice.
- “What was your favorite part of today?”
- “What is one thing you wish you could change about today?”
- “Who did you sit by at lunch?”
- “Did you play with anyone new today?”
- “What made you laugh today?”
- “What questions didn’t you get answered?”
- “What would you teach the class tomorrow if you could?”
- “If you could have anything for lunch tomorrow, what would you choose?”
- “Is there someone in your class you wish you knew a little better?”
- “Who is your favorite teacher?”
- “Do you have a nickname at school?”
- “If you could learn any subject at school all day, which would you choose?”
- “Tell me a new fact you learned today.”
- “Who did you sit next to on the bus and what did you talk about?
Skip the School Talk
In our house, the kids will give me a run down of the day that is pretty short lived and then run off to decompress or play a game. I have found that I can still connect with them by asking other, non-school related questions! We have some cards in our home called TABLETOPICS that help inspire conversation. We have used them with friends and our kids around the table. It’s generated some pretty fun ways to connect and get the conversation flowing. You can pick up the cards for nearly any topic. I bought ours randomly at a home store, but they also carry them on Amazon and are worth leaving out full time.
With some patience, humor, love, and creativity you and your child can find new and better ways to connect after school so you can satisfy your parental need-to-know.