Sometimes it feels like the moments when you can learn about your school-age child’s day or have a meaningful conversation with your child are few and far between. Because of the rush to connect in a limited amount of time, many parents default to asking “How was your day?” on the way home from school or at the dinner table. And in response, they received a standard one-word answer like “good” or “good”.
Of course, these one-word answers are not good fodder for a healthy discussion. If this happens to you, it’s time to get creative when asking your kids about their day. Doing so will help you have a more meaningful conversation. Here’s how you can get a better answer to the age-old question “How was your day?”
Avoid putting pressure on your child
Usually, it’s best to avoid asking about tests, grades, or anything academic, or about practice and performance. For many kids, questions related to their performance in some way create anxiety and cause them to stop functioning.
They feel defensive or anxious about meeting expectations. Instead, ask general, open-ended questions like, “What was the bravest thing you did today?” or “What was the best thing you saw at school today?”
It’s better not to probe for more information your child or teen wants to provide.
Be patient and wait quietly to see if more things are going to happen. Many times, children will provide more information if you demonstrate that you are listening but not judging. Giving too much advice or trying to fix something can also cause a child to stop functioning.
Instead of asking a generic question, mix it up a bit. Unique questions teach children the art of conversation, and they also give you a better picture of what’s going on in their lives and in their hearts.
You can try these prompts, but you’ll also want to ask your questions according to your child’s age, interests, and activities. For example, ask “What are you studying in math class?” one day, and “What did you do in gym class?” above other. Slowly rotate through your child’s school schedule.
19 Alternatives to “How was your day?”
- What is your favorite part of the day?
- What was the hardest thing you did today?
- If you could choose three friends to hang out with/hang out with, who would they be and why?
- Who put a smile on your face today?
- What is your favorite part of the day?
- If today were a color, what would it be and why?
- What is one creative thing you did today?
- Tell me about a book you are reading.
- Are you bored today? Why or why not?
- Tell me about a problem you solved today.
- Is today a fast day or a slow day? Why?
- What rule do you have to follow that doesn’t make sense?
- Did something happen today that makes you proud?
- Are you facing any particular challenges today?
- What was the best thing you did today?
- Do you have any questions for me about your day?
- What are you excited about?
- If you could pack anything for lunch tomorrow, what would it be and why?
- What is the most important thing you learned today?
Use time together wisely
When you’re traveling in the car or sitting at the dinner table together, your child can be open to talking because there’s less distraction. In addition, there are some things about car seats that children often open up to and share.
Part of it has to do with the fact that they don’t need to make eye contact with you unless they want to. They can look out the window if they want. This is the best time to get your kids talking about their day.
Use this time together to start a conversation. Turn down the radio volume. Ask them to put the device away so you can talk to each other about life.
Turn it into a game
Sometimes getting the conversation going at the dinner table can take a bit of effort and creativity. Some parents find that using a family fun night or chat game like “High/Low” or “Would you rather?” really helpful.
To play “High/Low”, everyone at the table takes turns telling the others a high for the day and a low for the day. Hearing what your child considers a high score and what they consider a low score can provide a wealth of insight into their lives and act as a conversation starter.
“Would You Rather” is a fun way to interact with each other using silly questions like “Would you like to drink a pitcher of pickle juice or smell like pickles for a week?” or “Would you rather have a water polo fight every day or a food fight once a week?”
There are no rules about what questions can or can’t be about. Let everyone take turns asking questions.
Make sure you’re listening
Depending on your child, you may only have one chance to ask a question and get an answer. Put away your electronics, avoid thinking about work, and give your kids your full attention. Then ask your question and wait for the answer. Be quiet and listen.
Giving children space and a chance to answer is just as important as asking the right questions.
Then, when your child has answered you, continue to sit quietly. Sometimes kids remember something else they want to add or they think of another story they want to share with you that has nothing to do with your original question.
Learning to sit tight not only gives your child space to share, but also improves your active listening skills. Look at your child and make eye contact if you can. Then focus on watching your child and listening. Not only should you listen to your child’s words, but you should also pay attention to what he or she is not saying.
Remember that you are someone your child wants to share with. Being a good listener shows your child that you are present and that you care about them.
There’s something about someone who really listens to you that says, “I care about you.” When children know that they have unconditional love and care from you, it boosts their self-esteem and opens the door to good communication for years to come.
Children can be unpredictable when it comes to sharing about their day. They may not be interested in talking to you when you ask them about their day in the car or playing a chat game over the dinner table. But then, when you walk into their room to say good night, they suddenly want to tell you about their fight with their best friend.
Whenever your child wants to share, try to stop and listen to what they have to say.
They are trying to share with you and you want to do what you can to encourage this type of conversation. The more often you show your children that you care about their lives, the more open they will be to you.
Likewise, if your school-age or teen kids come to your home office to talk, make time for them. If you’re doing something that can’t be interrupted, ask if you can talk for 15 minutes and then deliver on your promise.
You want to make sure your kids know you’re ready for them. If you’re busy or preoccupied every time they want to talk to you, then you’ll likely get the same response from them when you contact them about their day. They will be too busy or preoccupied to really engage in conversation with you.
How to handle one-word answers
If no matter how hard you try, your child still seems to respond to everything with a conversational ending like “Yes”, “No”, “Good” or “I don’t know”, don’t stress too much. much. Do your best to accept that they may not want to share much.
But that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to connect to some extent. Try talking about something that happened during your day. Mention something you learned or saw at work or talk about a memory you have from your own childhood.
A very good word
Even if you don’t specifically talk about your child’s day, you can still have a great conversation about another topic. Questions other than “How was your day?” help you understand your child better. And, the time you talk and listen reinforces to children that you care about them and value their thoughts and opinions.
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