Stop Asking, “How Was School Today?”

School offers children a wide range of experiences ranging educational to social. They are experiencing what it is like to be part of a larger group, to adapt to a new culture, to make friends, relate with adults, and to change and grow as individuals. 

As parents, we want all these experiences for our children and it is a joy to see them adapt and grow within the school environment. At the same time, we also want as much information as possible about what goes on while they are away from us. We want to know the joys they experienced, the new things they learned, and we want to be alerted to any difficulties they may have encountered.

How can parents learn what their kids are experiencing and learning in school? I will share three tips with you.

  1. Ask open ended questions. Open-ended questions will not elicit a yes or no response. While the question “How was school today?” is open-ended, it is too general. You are almost guaranteed to get a one-worded response like “Fine” or “Okay” You really don’t learn anything from that and the conversation ends. If possible, zoom in on a few things to make your question more specific. You can ask questions like “What was your favourite part of the day?” or “Who did you sit with during recess?”
  2. Ask nothing and just connect. Elle Kwan from Hand in Hand Parenting has an unconventional approach to asking after-school questions. Parents should not ask anything, according to her. At least not immediately after your kid comes home from school. When they get home, they want – no, they need – to feel warm and safe. They want to know that their parents are happy they are back. Instead of bombarding children with questions, what parents should do is take time first to connect with their child. Offer them a hug or a high five. Make sure your child feels relaxed, grounded, and at home by doing whatever works for him or her. It might be easier for them to tell you about their day once they are happy and calm.
  3. Start talking about your day. What I would like to suggest that parents do is to reverse roles. Since it is unlikely that your child will ask you “How was your day?” you can volunteer the information anyway, like at the dinner table. You can share about how you managed to complete a project on time. And how elated you feel. Or, you can talk about an interesting conversation you had with some of your colleagues and ask for your kids’ opinion on it. Whatever it is, try to balance facts with feelings. Share the facts of what happened. Share also how it made you feel. This is the baby steps to helping your kids become emotionally intelligent.

Trying a different approach to the after-school question can open up tons of conversations between you and your child. It can help you to reconnect with your child after school. However, remember that every child is different and while one method works well for one child, it might not work for another. A child deserves the chance to be heard and understood, but for some children, a little help is all they need.

This article is written by Parcsen Loke, Family Life Coach, Centre for Fathering