You pick your child up from school and ask what he did that day, and the answer is, “I don’t know” or, “Nothing.” It’s much easier to say, ‘I don’t know" than describe the whole day.
To help your child, ask specific questions that include a prompt, like, “What did you like better today, snack time or circle time?” More general questions, such as, “Who did you play with?” or, “Did you sing any songs today?” can help them focus and relate their feelings and stories.
If your kid does mention something negative from her day, you should of course show concern, but make sure you don’t overreact. Kids sometimes shut down based on your reactions. A kid will have a fine day, but one thing happened that they’re upset about. You hear this and panic. If you show alarm on your face, your child might stop sharing this type of information, thinking it makes you too upset. Instead, empathize with your son, tell him how crummy it must have felt to have that toy grabbed from him, and then move on.
With some kids, starting to ask questions as soon as you pick them up may be a mistake. Don’t start an interrogation as soon as you arrive for pickup or the moment you all walk in the front door. Spend a few minutes reconnecting with your kid just by being present. If you say something simple like, ‘Hey bud, I missed you. Let me take your backpack,’ chances are he’ll start to open up.
When you’re shuttling your kid from school to an activity and then home for dinner and homework, or you’re working full-time and don’t see your kid until 6 p.m., you might find it hard to fit in a few minutes to connect. Work some parent-kid time into your day, like right after dinner. Sitting down to do a focused activity together—even just 10 minutes of coloring or a puzzle—can create that space where your kid starts to feel like talking. I learned the most from my children while on short drives into town or just to drive to look at the river. Consider sharing a few details from your own day to encourage conversation This also teaches kids that everyone has good days and bad days, no matter how old you are.
Keep in mind that if you ignore or brush off your kid when she is rattling on about the latest video game or a funny thing that happened in her classroom that day, you’re missing an opportunity to show you are a good listener. If she sees you are not listening, she will stop talking.
Open communication will help you build a deep relationship with your children. When troubles inevitably arise, a solid foundation of trust and knowledge will allow for quick recognition and resolution.