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Guidelines for Parents to Help Your Child Talk About Their School Day by Sam Evans

There is no better feeling than when your child opens up about their day with you. It affirms the bond between you and them and reinforces their ultimate confidence in you as a parent.

When your child starts closing up and choosing to spend their afternoons hiding in their room after school and you begin to doubt your capabilities as a parent. Before you resort to measures that might further widen the rift, we have some tried and tested, research-backed tips to help you open up the lines of communication again.

Try asking insightful open-ended questions
For example, "What did you do at lunch today?" or "What are you most excited about with the school performance?" They keep the conversation open for more honest discussion (and can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’). They also let your child explain without you looking like you are digging too much.

Close-ended questions, on the other hand, lead to ‘yes,’ good,’ ‘fine’ or no’ answers thus leading to a dead-end. Broad questions can also be difficult, asking ‘How was your day?’ can be answered with ‘fine’ and it conveys laziness on your part, insightful questions that refer to specific situations that your child experienced at school will likely result in better quality, more satisfying answers.

Use literature as a conversation starter
It does not necessarily mean you start going through their backpacks to find a book that can help you open a conversation. Choose a book that discusses school issues, one that will allow you to ease your way into him telling you about his day.

You can use one of Jack Prelutsky’s literature, ‘What a Day It Was at School’ and get them chatting about it. He gives an account of a student’s typical day in school like tipping over with a heavy backpack, throwing food in the cafeteria, and hopelessly competing with a classmate in the gym - all hilarious events that can happen to any kid in school. It could help make them laugh and share some of their embarrassing moments of the day.

Be a good role model and talk about your day
It is important to share your interests, friends, problems, and joys with your kids. Talking about what happened during your day might trigger a memory from their day that they wanted to share with you. It also makes you more approachable as they understand that you also experience a wide range of emotions from feeling scared and anxious, to happy and excited.

The dinner table serves as one of the best places to get to know your child
You are all together, maybe for the first time in the day. The dinner table is a safe place to share your ideas, everyday experiences, joys, and disappointments. You can even try playing games that will enable you to open topics of conversation and get your kids to share their school experiences.

Discuss the themes they are learning
They could be learning about the various countries in Africa this week, and they get a project to learn about South Africa. It is the great moment to have fun exploring the topic on the internet, learning facts about the ‘Zulu Nation’ and helping her note down points to help them in their assignment.

Your child’s school schedule should be something you know
You can start by knowing what classes and extra murals they have scheduled for the day. This helps you ask more insightful questions such as ‘What did you learn that was new at soccer today?’ or ‘What book did you pick at the library?’

Take time and try helping them get better at a sport they’ve chosen, or projects they are working on. Through this, you will be affirming his choice and encouraging them, and by working side-by-side, you create a more natural setting for conversation to flourish.

Listen, do not get distracted, listen (you might need to go outside for this one)
This should be your mantra every time you have a sit-down or casual conversation with your child. Do not jump to conclusions or ask too many questions. Give her a chance to express herself without interrupting them.

A child gains confidence as they relate their day and you affirm them. A great way to do this is to pop your child in their stroller and go for a walk or to the park. It helps you focus on them rather than the hundreds of to-dos that you have piling up at home.

If your child is a bit older (or if you have more than one child), let them take their bikes out and you can go with your youngest in a kids bike trailer. Studies show that spending time outside with your children makes them smarter, happier and more attentive which means that your chance of a meaningful conversation has increased just by stepping outside.

Parenting offers many challenges, but you can try making it easier for yourself, especially when it comes to your conversations about school with your child. Following these simple guidelines will help them get better in school and at the same time build stronger bonds with your children.