School’s in full swing here, and if your house is anything like mine, getting kids to talk about their day is sometimes difficult.
I want to know everything:
- Who did they sit with at lunch?
- Who did they play with at recess?
- How do they like their tablemates?
- What book did they start in Guided Reading?
- Who hosted the morning tv show?
But it’s hard. The kids are tired at 3pm, they’re even more tired at 7pm, and the last thing they want to do is talk to boring old Mom about school. So I have to get creative–and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully these tricks for getting kids to talk about school will help you get a little more info from your little loves about what goes on in their lives, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the skinny. . .
How to Get Kids to Talk About School:
The most important thing here is that we really have to read our own kids, not be too pushy, and try to let the conversations evolve naturally. And we need to listen. Seriously. I know–not always easy. So I’ve found that with my three kids, I’ve tried three different approaches: 1. direct questions; 2. group questions; 3. distracted questions.
1. direct questions: Most often, numero uno–direct questions–are a complete and utter fail for me. Save for those rare occasions when the stars are aligned, the odds are rarely ever in my favor for this technique. I ask questions, and I get quick, abbreviated responses that hardly make sense. Even with open-ended questions the kids don’t want to chat this way with me.
me: How was recess? (This must be a subject they’ll want to talk about! )
me: Whadja play?
kid: Lotsa stuff.
me: What was your favorite game?
me: Who’d ya play with most?
Never fear. Numero dos and tres have yielded better results for me.
2. group questions: Group questions often work for us. They often work especially around the dinner table and when we’ve got an audience, even if that audience is Dad. Because really? Dad’s mucho awesome. He’s not hangin’ around the house as much as me, so he’s almost extra-special something. And if we mix things up a bit, they almost always work.
- Speed answer: Go around the dinner table and everyone gives a quick, one or two word answer to the same question.
- Ball toss: Everyone answers the same question, though not at the same time. The speaker holds a ball. He or she tosses the ball to the next person, and that person answers. This one is great for after school, after snack, out in the back yard.
- Hula hello: Give kids a hula hoop and they answer as many questions as they can while hula-hooping.
- Question train: You start with one question and choose a person to answer. That person answers and asks another question to the next person. And so on and so on.
3. distracted questions: One of my dear friends suggested that chatting with tweens and teens is best conducted this way–while you’re both doing something.
- Snack chat: While everyone’s eating a snack and before homework starts, chat school.
- Kitchen helpers: Having one kid help prepare dinner has been hugely helpful in opening the door to conversation about school. While kids are cutting veggies, mixing mac and cheese, or emptying the dishwasher, they often want to talk to pass the time.
- Travel convo: When kids are held captive in the car and as you’re schlepping everyone from soccer and piano lessons and then back again, ask questions. Though often for me, my kids really want to zone out in the car, sometimes, they’re pretty chatty. Again, depends on the day.
- Chore chats: Many times I remember chatting with my mom while she (or I) was ironing or folding wash. Not sure why, but maybe there’s something there for moms and daughters.
- Game gabble: Owen is a gamer, and he always has been. So often he’s opened up most to me or my husband during games of War, Battleship, Monopoly, or Rummy. Again, it’s the busy hands and relaxed atmosphere that may help.
print it out: how to talk to kids about school | teachmama.com
Now. What should you ask? Though I’m no expert, from what I’ve heard and read, you should do a whole lot more listening than talking. We want our kids to know that we’re listening to what they say and that our ears are open. So put the cell phones down. Close the laptop. Let that iPad rest. And when you do say something, paraphrasing is key. It’s like putting money in the bank. When you paraphrase, you’re simply putting what your child just said into your own words. When you paraphrase, it lets your kiddos know that you’re listening. And sometimes when you ask questions that count–that get them thinking or get them interested, they’re more likely to answer. Consider asking:
- What book are you reading?
- What was the best part of your lunch?
- Who was absent from class today?
- Who was on the morning announcements?
- What did you play in PE?
- Will you let me guess your favorite part of the morning/ afternoon/ day?
- If your day was a movie, what would the title be?
- What color was your day?
- Which Olympic medal would you give today?
- What do you hope is different tomorrow?
And really? Cross your fingers. But first, print out this pretty little cheat cheet: how to talk to kids about school . . . and have an awesome year!
Need or want a few more ideas that may be helpful as you move into the new school year?
Click on the image below:
Want a little more back-to-school fun? A few more rockstar resources?
- Back to School Tips and Tricks: Make this year ROCK
- Get kids involved in back to school shopping
- school success
- everything I wish knew before middle school
- lunchbox notes: school RULES! lunchbox joke notes
- help kids start a blog
- analog twitter wall
- game design for kids
- get kids started with texting
- texting as a learning tool
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