Here is one of the most common challenges to parents: We have all experienced the following dialogue over and over again: Parent: “How was your day at school/day camp/play date/field trip etc…?” Child: “Fine.” Parent: “What did you do?” Child: “Nothing” or if he is being really generous with the information: “nothing special.”
Today’s post and tomorrow’s will deal with this challenge and how to create an open channel of communication with children of different ages. This post will talk about children from preschoolers to 9 or 10 years old and tomorrow’s post will be about pre teens and teens.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to create open, appreciative and truthful communication with your child starting at a very young age.
1) Make it special and intimate: Before you begin asking questions and seeking information from your toddler or preschooler it is important to send a non-verbal message to your child which lets him know that he has your undivided attention for this special time when you re connect after being separated for the day. I recommend having this conversation face to face making eye contact and without multi tasking.
If you are picking up your child I would have this short catch up conversation in the car where you are sitting close to one another and you are not driving, you are just listening. This is an open and a genuine invite to the child assuring him tat he is being heard fully and completely.
2) Use open ended questions but not too open: Instead of asking how was daycare when most of the time the answer will be: fine, try this: Ask open but more specific questions such as: “What did you like most at circle time?” “What was your favourite activity during recess time?” “What did you like best in your lunch box?” and so on…
These kinds of questions already have embedded in them the assumption that they did like that part of the day and they only need to communicate to you what was enjoyable for them that day.
3) Listen, really listen: When the child answers, refrain from judging, interrupting or lecturing. Remember this special time is for your child to speak and for you to listen. Be mindful of the ratio of one mouth and two ears.
4) Reflect your feelings: At the end of this short conversation you can tell your child how happy you are to hear that he had this joyful day at school or how much you appreciate him telling you about a bad incident at school. You can say something like: “ It means so much to me to know how your day was for you. Thank you.”