How many times have you asked your child, “How was school today?” and been frustrated by the lack of response? As a parent and a teacher, it is a very common issue for many but also the most important communication issue to get right for all our kids and ourselves.
Let’s be honest though, some days as a parent we lack the energy for a real conversation. Other times, we lack time, or we just can’t think of what to ask.
As a teacher, I have often wished that my students would share stories of the learnings or incredible ‘oh yeah’ moments and especially with their parents. Many of us don’t realise the impact that the ‘time taken’ to have parents and kids’ reflections times add important value to the entire family unit. This type of communication not only helps us as parents to connect with our children, but it also helps our kid’s problem solve, it improves verbal skill, reduces stress, improves sleep and anxiety, and forms better parent/child relations allowing our kids to feel heard. Another improvement is our children feel seen and improves listening skills, and its an opportunity so we too can also share our review of the day a real-life communication.
It really is a win/win for all human connection.
Another key factor is by having these chats with our kids we are better armed to make clear decisions about our child’s behaviour in a school setting. As a protective parent it is easy to only hear our child’s version of the day story. As a parent we then hit the panic button or the send button and realise it was our child trying to grab our attention and if the story is enhanced a little, well the connection is better for the child because an emotion was caused within the parent. This time to connect daily is especially important to have all knowledge for ‘protective parenting’ and even more important to acknowledge before sending a barking email to a teacher or a message to another child’s parent.
This list of questions I created through 25 years of teaching students will draw out important information from kids but also for adults. These questions I’ve personally used on my own teenagers and my heath and fitness clients.
As the year has kicked off in my job as a teacher, I thought to offer this list to my class parents so that they could gain a clearer connection with their children to better understand our class but to also avoid getting the Friday night after a few wines emails from parents.
TIPS FOR ASKING QUESTIONS
How and when we ask these questions makes a big difference in the information we receive from our kids. First, you don’t want to ask all these questions on the same day. You might ask one or two. After a while, you’ll figure out which ones ignite the most meaningful responses. You’ll want to ask during a time when you can focus so that your child feels they have your full attention. With my teens —and in my household—making dinner, after dinner and driving in the car are optimal times for these conversations.
These conversations have become routine. My teen knows that when we drive to school or home, I’ll ask them. These questions have been asked since my children were in day-care. They are both so used to them they even ask me now. Everyone feels heard, seen, cared, loved, and valued.
THE 10 MAGIC SCHOOL KIDS QUESTIONS
These questions can work with all communication situations but it imperative you maintain a positive tone.
- Tell me about a moment today when you felt excited or proud of yourself.
- What did you do that was fun today?
- What did you learn about yourself today?
- Is there anything that I can help you figure out?
- Was there any moment in class when you felt a bit confused?
- How did your friends showed they cared for you today?
- Tell me about a conversation you had with a classmate or friend that made you laugh or smile.
- What was challenging or is anything that worried you about your day?
- Did you not finish any schoolwork that we can complete at home? I love to see what you are working on.
- What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
The following can also help your conversations be positive and powerful:
- Don’t interrupt. This is a good rule for any conversation, but especially if you want to get a lot of information out of a kid.
- Ask for more. Simply say, “I’d love to hear more about that…” Or “Tell me a little?”
- Ask about feelings. After a child describes an experience, ask, “How did you feel in that moment? What did you notice about your feelings?” Use language that evokes more thought. For example, avoid – were you sad or happy? Instead ask them to describe the body cues. I feel burning in my face or I smiled or..
- Validate feelings. Whatever your child feels are normal and okay. Let them know that. Feelings are okay. Tell them this. It is ok to feel disappointed in a situation or self. This is normal. Mistakes are great! That is how we learn best.
- Tell them it’s not okay for kids or any adult to be unkind or mean. But modelling this as an adult is very important in the home also. If they tell you a story about someone who yelled or disrespected them – say ‘Hmm ok but what were you doing?’ Example – Take a photo in your mind and allow them to tell in honest detail. Remember – All kids (many adults too) love to tell their best side of any story version until they feel safe in making mistakes and being truthful.
- Thank them for sharing with you. Always appreciate their honesty and willingness to share the highlights and bright spots, as well as the difficult moments. This will fuel their confidence in telling you more.
Health and Happiness,