Recently, a parent shared with me that her daughter rarely tells her anything that she learns at school. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. It happens daily with children preschool through college. As parents, we have invested a lot (blood, sweat, tears, life-lessons,love and money) to give our children the advantages they need to not just survive in this world, but flourish! Of course we are eager to hear stories of how our investments are paying dividends. Some parents are fortunate (though, at times they don’t think so) in that they have born a child who likes to share every minute detail of every activity. These parents know everything about school, even what color pen the teacher used on the white board that day. Where’s the happy medium?navigate here
First off, for the parents who have the rare child that tells them everything, make sure you make time to sit down, give them your full attention and listen attentively. This is a very special gift your child is giving you, even though at times it seems a bit overwhelming! If you can’t listen when they want to talk (which is just about always!) plan a time or times during the day (during a walk together, after dinner, during bathtime, snuggled in bed) when you can listen. If your child knows there is a time of day (try to make it a consistent time each day) where you will give him/her your full attention they are more apt to save their stories until then. If your child is constantly requesting your attention and you are busy with another task and can’t stop to listen, reassure your child that you will listen carefully at your designated time and ask them to save their story until then. If your child is afraid they’ll forget, start a list. Ask your child for just one or two words which will help them remember the story. Bring the list to your listening time.
For the parents of 99% of the children who don’t want to take the time to talk about past events, here are some helpful hints to extract information from your child.
1.Give your child time to unwind. We all need time to decompress after a long day (read the newspaper, watch a little tv) and then we’re ready to interact and share interesting facts about our day. Your child is no different from you. He/she needs time to unwind too. Generally by dinner time most everyone has had time to regroup. It is often a great time to gather around the table and share stories of the day. If you begin by sharing, your child will be eager to share about his/her day too. Consider beginning a tradition of each family member sharing a good and a not so good thing that happened today during meal time.
2.Children learn from modeling. Modeling is an important piece of teaching a child. When you share events of your day with your child, model to him/her the types of things you would like your child to share with you.
3.Play guessing games. Every child loves a game! Get them started by trying to guess the routine of their day. “The first thing you did today was take a nap! No? Oh you played? You played with Santa Claus today! No? Who did you play with? Oh, you, Peter, and John put together 25 puzzles today. No? You built a bridge for the cars. WOW! That must have been a lot of work. What was your job in building the bridge? I bet a lucky leprechaun sneeked into your classroom and put the bridge away? No? Who helped put the bridge away? So after you put the bridge away you had nap time. No? Oh, you went to circle time. At circle time you sang about lucky leprechauns. No? Oh you used instruments when you sang, and then you took a nap, no? Oh you made patterns with cubes, what did your pattern look like? Can you draw it for me?”
4.Use open ended questions whenever possible. Try to avoid yes/no questions. Try asking questions which require a full sentence such as, “tell me two friends you played with in the gym?” “Show me three warm-up exercises you did in PE today?” “What was your morning chart question? How did you answer the question?” “Who was the reading helper today?” “What did you read today?” “Name two of your favorite activities today.”
5.Talk about the children he/she knows. Children often open up when they are asked about friends they like interacting with.
6.Give yourself an extra 5 or 10 minutes to spend with your child at school. You can learn much about your child’s day when drop off and pick up times are unrushed. Your child will be delighted to show you around the classroom. Take time to meet your child’s friends, look at projects on the wall, activities set up in the classroom, and your child’s notebook. Even if you don’t have time now to talk about what you see, they will be excellent conversation starters later in the day.