Another school year is about to start, and if there is one tip we have for moms, it's this: avoid asking your child "how was school today?" Because it is likely you will just get a one-word answer: "Okay" or "good."
Instead, Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., senior learning advisor for Understood.org, a non-profit umbrella organization that provides support for parents of kids with learning and attention issues, recommends, "Ask open-ended questions to keep a conversation going. If you ask your child questions that can be answered with one word, then you'll probably get a one-word response."
When you talk, try to be casual about it and always on a positive note. Ask about events outside the classroom like what happened during recess. Cunningham notes that positive questions allow your little one to bring up concerns, while negative questions cut the discussion short.
"Often kids are not specific, so you have to ask for specific information when you want it," Cunningham added. For your preschooler, many things can happen in two hours of school, so you need to guide him on remembering the details.
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Here are some of the questions you might want to ask your child to know "How was school?" without only receiving a "yes," "no," "good," or "okay" as a reply:
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How many of your classmates wore red today?
What did you learn in school today?
What's the most fun thing you did in school today?
Tell me who sat beside you during recess today.
What did you like about the new friend you made today?
What songs did you sing today?
Do you remember the names of your classmates then and now?
Who did you play with during recess today?
Which classmate did you talk to the most, and what did you talk about?
What did you draw today?
Tell me three things you used your pencil for at school.
Did anyone annoy you in school?
What made you smile today?
Which school activity did you like the least or the most?
Was anyone absent today? Was anyone sick?
What do you like about your teacher?
Did anyone cry today?
Tell me about the favorite book that you read in school today?
If you would change anything in your classroom, what would it be?
Did you need to ask your teacher to help you with anything?
You don't have to stick to the list. These are just sample questions you can start with to get the conversation flowing. The key is listening to your child and picking up on what he shares with you.
Resist the urge to overreact when you hear something quite shocking, or your child will clam up, warns Kelly Holmes, mom of four and author of Happy You, Happy Family. If you calmly say something like "interesting," or "hmmm," and then carefully word your follow-up question, it will encourage your child to open up more and without fear.
Again, try to keep these after-school conversations casual. Pause and try again after your preschooler has finished his after-school snack if he doesn't feel like talking yet. Pressuring your child to answer your questions will not help.
Remember that the goal is a conversation and not an interrogation. "These conversations should be fun, not stressful!" Holmes said.