After the long summer break, kids all over Australia are starting back at school this week. For many it will be their first time, for some they might be changing schools and for most it will be another milestone, going up one school grade.
Where ever your child is on the school journey, on the first day back they are likely to be feeling a mixture of different emotions.
So when you first make contact with them, be it at the school gate or after school care or perhaps at dinner that night, most parents are busting to understand how their first day went, and without even thinking about it, the first question that comes out of your mouth is…..
“How was your day?”
Whilst it is perhaps the most common question asked, it is also one of the most ineffective questions you can ask too, it just doesn’t give you any of the answers the question implies. Why?
For younger children the question can be overwhelming, it is so broad that they struggle to compartmentalise the entire day into one sentence, thought or feeling. Resulting in a limited response. So, don’t jump to assumptions that they hate school or the day was great based on this response. It will require further discussion and more specific questions to really understand their day.
For older children, the question can be easily negotiated or perhaps avoided with the responses of fine, good or bad. Again, even with older kids you will find you still have no idea how their day was. I suggest avoiding this question totally with teens, more specific question will result in a more engaging conversation.
So, instead of asking this question at the end of a long day (which I still have to stop myself from doing!), provide your children (or even your spouse) an opportunity to story tell.
We all love to tell a story!
Knowing your child’s personality and where and when to ask the questions does help if you want to hear the full story, particularly if you think it might be sensitive. While some might enjoy the limelight of entertaining everyone with a funny story over dinner, others might like to share their story while washing up, or on the drive home (without the eye contact). Don’t be afraid to move something “off line” if you can sense that it would be best discussed in a different environment.
For my family, I usually ask a few simple questions at school pick up, just to check in on the mood of the day for each child. Then, I will ask each child to elaborate further over dinner (a family of story tellers!). I find this works well and enables both parents be present to hear the highlights from each child.
So, if your old favourite “How was your day?” doesn’t support storytelling, what questions do you ask?
To provide some alternatives, here are 3 more specific questions (assuming everyone’s day may not have been all smiles), from our Dinner Conversation Packs, with suitable age ranges to make it easier for you to consciously make the switch.
- What made you happy today?
- Can you think of 2 things that you learned today?
- How do you cheer yourself up when you are feeling sad?
- Do you have an all-time favourite teacher? Share why they stand out.
- What are you really passionate about?
- When you are sad, who is your “go to” person for support or advice?
- What is the best thing about school or work?
- What did you love about today?
- Name 3 adults you can rely on for help?
- Share one thing that made you feel happy and smile today.
- Share something interesting that you discovered.
- What do you do that shows people you are getting frustrated?