How many times have you asked your child how their day went, and then they responded with one word? As a parent of school-aged children, you want to know what your kids did at school. Also, you want to know how their day was and if anything significant happened. But getting all that out of them is the real challenge. So here are four ways to help you connect with your school-aged children.
1. Give Them Time to Unwind
You may be happy to see your kids at the end of the school day and anxious to interact with them. But they just ended a day filled with academic work and following directions, so they need to catch their breath. Greet them with a smile, give them a snack and a drink, and let them unwind a bit. Once they’ve had a chance to center themselves, then it’s the best time to find out how their day went.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Rather than ask if they had a good day, ask your school-aged children open-ended questions. Ask questions about who they sat next to at lunch or who they played with on the playground. Vary the items every day. Kids love talking about something funny that happened to them today, so give them an opening to have that conversation with you. Every once in a while, ask your child if they felt safe today, too.
3. Be Present
With a never-ending to-do list, it’s hard to stop and listen. But being present during these connecting conversations is essential. So show your child they are important, and you want to hear what they are telling you. Listen to your child with the intent to listen, not to respond. Turn down the television and put down the phone.
Kids want to share their thoughts with you, but the days are busy for them, just as they are for you. Having these connecting conversations after school is essential. However, you should also follow-up around bedtime. As you are wrapping up the bedtime routine, check in with your child. Reference something you heard from them earlier.
Share that you are happy they sat next to Sam again today for lunch or that you are surprised they played four-square at recess. This reinforces that you heard your child and are open to any additional details. As tempting as it is, don’t rush the conversation to get the light off for the night.
Establishing connecting conversations with your school-aged children early on reinforces the communication that you both will need in middle and high school. Keeping those lines open today will ensure they remain open tomorrow. So try these four simple tips, and you may be surprised at how well they work.