Finding out what goes on while our children are at school can often feel like pulling teeth! After a full day of learning, socialising and running around often the last thing they feel like doing is recounting every detail of their day to an inquisitive parent. It can be really hard to get children to talk about what’s going on in school, but if we can get them into the habit of telling us small details from their days, they will be more likely to speak up if something bigger is happening.
Here are some tips for getting your child to tell you about their school day:
Never ask, "how was school today?” Children of all ages will struggle to answer such a big question with so many potential answers, so will often answer with "ok” or something else noncommittal and uninformative
Ask if they want to tell you about their day. The moment they come out of school they might be excited to share something with you, or they might feel so drained from a day of learning and interacting with others that they just want to walk home in silence for a while.
Ask specific questions. Rather than "what did you learn today” you could ask your child "did you do maths today?” or "what book are you reading in English?” A specific question is more likely to get a response, from which you can ask more questions.
Ask every day. Even if you’re always met with a blank stare or a two-word answer, still ask questions every day. This keeps the line of communication open and lets your child know that you are interested and want to hear about what’s going on. It also means that if something really is bothering them they have an opportunity to tell you about it.
Avoid a face-to-face interrogation. Children (and adults!) often find it easier to talk about things when they don’t feel they’re being watched. For this reason you can often find you get more information from a child when walking or driving home, or while one or both of you is completing another task for instance making dinner or washing up.
Show that you’ve been listening. A great way of doing this is finding a way of repeating what your child has said back to them at regular intervals: "so the maths test went well, but Jenny didn’t sit next to you?” This shows you were paying attention and have understood what was said, and also gives them a chance to elaborate on their original statement if they want to.
Be prepared for them to begin chattering at the least convenient moment. Just because it’s convenient for you to chat about school on the journey home, it doesn’t mean this is the best time for your child to talk. They might prefer to chat after dinner, when they should be getting ready for bed or even as you’re putting them to bed at night. Try not to shut them down; this might deter them from sharing information with you in the future.