Encouraging kids to talk about their day in a way that actually gets them to talk

As your kids get older, a lot of the big moments will happen while you’re not together – at school, playing sports, with friends. While many kids can be reluctant to discuss their day, if you can chat with them you’ll be able to remember the big moments that come, even if they don’t, and share those memories later.

The important thing is to realize that there are many reasons that kids may not be willing to talk in detail about their day. They may have difficulty in picking what detail to share, trouble to remember specific details, or even suffer from a sense of performance anxiety. Whatever the reason, here are some things that parents can do to help their kids open up and talk about their day.

Frame the question right

Ask any parent who has succeeded in getting their little one to talk, and they’ll offer this as the first advice – get the question correct. Most parents tend to ask general questions like “How was your day?” or “Did you have a good time today?” The downside to these seemingly normal questions is that they elicit one-word responses; a simple “yes,” “no,” or “fine” works well as an answer. Instead, try tweaking the question a little, like “Tell me about what you learned in math today,” or “Who did you sit with at lunch?” This allows the kids to explain things in detail, instead of settling for laconic replies.

Specifics are easier on the kids

Cheerful family.
Family with two children having fun at home.

Another reason the kids find it hard to answer a common question like “How was your day?” is that it’s too general; it leaves them confused about where to begin from. Should they tell you about the new song they learned that day, or about the game they played, or about the skit they were made to practice in class? It often gets overwhelming for children and leaves them clammed up. Here’s where a more specific question can help; it lets the kids narrow down their area of focus, and prevents them from suffering from an overload of information.

Get them to ease up a little

Another common mistake that parents unknowingly make is to sit their kids down right after school or a playdate, and question them about their day. Studies have shown that this period is a vulnerable time for kids because they’re making the transition from being in charge of their day to coming home and slipping into being kids again, handing over the responsibility to the parents. A better time to get them to talk would be once they’ve settled down into their regular life at home – some parents recommend talking to the kids after dinner, and just before bedtime.

Help them remember their day

Thanks to their extremely short attention span, kids often forget the little details of their day. Parents can help them recollect the seemingly insignificant incidents by offering prompts to nudge them into recalling their day. Staying in touch with the parents of other kids and with the teachers at school, and remaining informed about the various activities and lessons that the kids are learning, also help a parent assist the little ones in remembering the specific aspects of their day. On being prompted, and once they get comfortable, it’s surprising how much children can reveal.

Encouraging a child to talk about their day can be easy – it’s about experimenting to find the right technique to get them to open up.

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