Recent studies show that talking to your children about their school day can improve their grades by around 15%. But not just any interaction will do. It’s the way you talk to your children about their day that can have a positive and noticeable effect.
So many parents say that their children won’t talk to them about their day at school but quite often it’s the way the questions are asked that causes the child to shut down.
‘How was your day?’ … ‘Fine’ or ‘Ok’ or ‘I don’t know’
‘What did you do today?’ … ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Nothing’
With answers like these parents feel shut out and disappointed. But really, it’s the questions themselves blocking the communication.
For every age group, the questions you ask need to be specific. Not just because they’re much easier to answer, but also because they show you care. Ask ‘What did Mrs Steele say about your still-life painting?’ rather than ‘What did you do today?’ This shows that you care enough to remember the name of their art teacher, the homework itself and that today was the day it was due in. All of this tells your child that they’re important to you. Which helps them relax, and want to tell you more.
Make sure that you’re not just pumping them for facts; ask them how it made them feel when the teacher was pleased with them, or they lost the game. Ask them who they had lunch with and what food they liked best. Ask if they think their best friend is happy to be moving house. Ask what they’re looking forward to doing tomorrow and what they’re most excited about doing in their favourite class. And remember to listen to the answers. The Child Development Institute suggests using ‘Enquiry based listening. This is when you respond to them with words that encourage more conversation. For example “Sounds like you’re saying…….” Or “How did that make you feel?” or “Do you mean …?”
This is mostly about empathy, so don’t forget to pick a good moment, don’t fire questions at them when they still have their coat on, and not while they’re watching tv or doing their homework. Over dinner is a good time. Or perhaps over a cup of tea after they’ve got in (chances are they’ll love an excuse to delay starting their homework). And if it’s not easy to begin with, don’t give up – the more you do it, the easier it gets. The more questions you ask, the more information you will glean, to then be able to ask specific, empathetic questions the next day and the next.
Finally, a great instigator for conversation is to look over your child’s Earwig timeline with them at home. You can ask them how much they enjoyed the activities depicted or why they chose to work with that particular friend on that project, all the topics for discussion are right there in front of you.