"What did you do in school today?"
I am sure you have all heard that from your kids. Sometimes it really was a routine day, learning math, learning reading, going to recess, etc... But my sweet little kindergartner, in particular, either cannot recall her day or is not interested in sharing it. I guess you could say that she "lives in the moment." When I asked her about how her day was yesterday, she said "good, we did the same things we always do." Contrast this canned answer to the report from her teacher (who is so great to share lots of information on her class blog):
"We had a wonderful day today. It started with sushi making...yum!, and continued with...reading a book about Jackson Pollock, showing excerpts from a movie which showed how Pollock painted. Joel brought in some canvases and talked about the colors of the season.
After lunch Tree Frog Treks arrived with tortoises, iguanas, lizards, and two pythons. The smaller of the two did indeed get wrapped around my neck, choke!, and the necks of some brave kids. The larger one spanned with width of the rug and many kids lined up, really down, to have that gorgeous snake across their bodies..."
Does this sound like "nothing" to you? I wish I had that day. Rightfully so, her teacher concluded,
"So if you asked your child what happened at school today and they said, Nothing, you can bust them!"
I think it is never too early to get the lines of communication going, so that when they're teens, the more difficult issues that come up can be part of a long-established, on-going conversation. Plus, getting your kids to open up to you is the best way to establish a bond, and get to know that very interesting little person who is your child.
Here are a few tips on communicating with your child:
Use open-ended questions- admittedly, this does not guarantee a detailed answer (see above). But this is the preferred approach. Say: "What did you do in school today?" Instead of "Did you have fun in school today?" or other closed-ended questions which can be answered with a yes or no.
Listen- if you are not focused on your child, she will know. That means no absent-minded "uh-huh." Take your eyes off your computer/smartphone/paperwork/TV and look at your child if you really want her to share her world with you. You may be surprised at how much she'll tell you.
Talk to other parents- it would be nice if we could all spend hours in the classroom with our children, but some parents have this luxury more than others. So talk to them! You'll be surprised at how much they know about your child, and what different perspectives they may have.
Know your kids' friends- not only is this a safety issue, but if you spend time with your child and her friends, you may learn something from their conversations with each other.
Have dinner together- a distraction-free (i.e. TV-free) dinner is a natural time to get a conversation going. Not only that, but lots of research suggests that family dinners are the best way to prevent a myriad of future problems including substance abuse, smoking, depression, eating disorders, and even asthma attacks.
Does anyone have other advice on ways to get your kids to spill the beans about their experiences with you?