After School Conversation: How to Get Past One-Word Answers

Posted by Rachel Urbina on Sep 8, 2017 5:00:00 PM

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The school day has ended and you eagerly await seeing your child, giving them a squeeze, and hearing all about their day. Naturally, the first question out of your mouth is, “How was your day?” and if your kids are like most, they answer, “Good” or, “Boring” or my personal favorite, “Fine.” Then the silence reigns and you are left wondering why they don’t want to share every little detail with you. Here are a few tips to help the after school conversation start flowing.

‘How was your day?’ is such a broad question. The answers to that are almost infinite. The reason most people respond with, “Good,” is because it’s the easiest answer and it doesn’t take much effort. Keep in mind that your kids have just been talking, listening, processing, and learning at a high level for over 6 hours. When your 8 or 10 hour work day ends, you probably aren’t in the mood to wax poetic about everything that happened either. So replace those general questions with very specific ones to foster more conversation and as a bonus, get more specific information.

What was your favorite class today? Answer. Why?
Who did you sit by at lunch? Answer.  What did you talk about?
What did you play for PE? Answer. Do you enjoy that activity?
What was your biggest challenge today? Answer. Is there anything I can help you with?

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You don’t want to rapid fire all of those questions every day. Start with one or two and if a conversation starts from one of them, run with it. The point is to encourage your child to share with you, not to pull as much information out of them as you can. Turning it into an inquisition can have the very negative effect of the child closing up, and we are striving for the opposite here.

Another technique is to not ask about school at all until later in the evening. Let your child pick the music on the drive home, quietly read a book in the car, or you could share something interesting that happened in your day. You can wait until they’ve had a snack at home or are sitting at the dinner table to try out one or two specific questions. We adults need some decompression time after working hard and children are no different. 

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Sometimes children are hesitant to share details or explain situations from their day because they don’t want a lecture on how ‘they should have handled it,’ or be told what they did or said was wrong. Adults are no different in this area. We will often hold back information in conversation because we don’t want someone’s opinion on it; in fact, we just want to be heard. Talking through a situation is helpful to us, but being lectured on it can be hurtful. When asking your kids specific questions about their school day, resist the temptation to answer back with your opinion. If they ask for your help, however, make sure you are gentle in your suggestions or turn it around on them for some critical thinking practice, “What do you think you should do if that happens again?” or “What would you do differently next time?”

Your children will learn that they can come to you when they really do have a serious situation, because experience has taught them that you will listen, encourage, and give gentle suggestions to help them solve the problem. By modeling good communication skills to your child, they will learn and grow to become like you. You are giving them skills they will take with them into their adult years and at the same time, you will get a little window into their world when they are apart from you.

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