A New Approach to “How was school today?”

As a child psychologist, whose job is to get kids to talk, I was surprised to find that this was a lot harder than I thought when it came to finding out about my 5-year-old’s school day at pick up. I knew that asking “Did you have a good day?” would only garner a “yes” or “no,” but even the open-ended “How was school?” didn’t produce more than “good,” “I’m tired,” “can you turn on some music?” or no response at all. Albeit tired, she tended to be in a good mood overall and I understood that she likely needed some time to decompress after a full day of school. I’d later get little snippets about the day and maybe some golden nuggets at bedtime.

I knew I wasn’t alone and began doing a little informal research on how to get kids to talk about their day. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Tell your child about your own day (don’t wait around for him or her to ask!)
  • Wait until later after he/she has had time to decompress.
  • Ask about his/her day while engaged in an activity or task together (snack time, homework, preparing dinner).
  • Don’t miss “openers” he/she might offer.
  • Follow up on something from earlier in the week.
  • Take turns sharing your “Rose, Thorn & Mistake” of the day (from my daughter’s teachers); rose is the highpoint, thorn is the low point, and mistake is an opportunity for learning a better way to solve a problem.
  • Ask your child to cast his/her classmates in a production of a favorite fairytale.
  • Ask your child what you would see if you were a fly on the wall at different times throughout the school day.
  • Here are some favorites of mine from Liz Evans, a blogger at the Huffington Post:
    • If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
    • If you got to be teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
    • Who is the funniest person in class? Why?
    • Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before? Why?
    • How did you help somebody today? How did somebody help you?