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Mrs. Brinker on how to encourage your kids to share about their day at school

It can start with asking open-ended questions, rather than one that can be answered yes or no.

For many Hoosier families, our kids are back in school. 

As parents, we wait for them to come home and let us know about their day. This can be frustrating when the question 'how was school?' gets a one-word response, like "'fine."

WTHR education expert Jennifer Brinker, assistant principal at Greenwood Middle School, shares tips on how to get those kids talking and sharing. 

"One problem that I think many parents face is actually just having time built in to have the conversation," she said. "You need to be able to give your child your full attention while they are sharing. We have all been in the position where someone asks you a question and doesn’t listen to your answer. It is very frustrating. What often happens is when we as parents have a million things going on at once and we ask them in the car while we are trying to drive and listen to everyone in the family, or whatever the case might be, the kids begin to answer and then we interrupt or give our attention to something else. Try to work in some structured time whether it is around the dinner table or before bed. If you have multiple kids, talk about taking turns talking, and be a good active listener." 

As for questions you might ask...

"If you just throw out a question that can be answered with yes or no, you are more likely to get 'yes' and that is it," Brinker said. "Some kids are talkers and some you have to pry it out. Ask more specific questions like 'What was something good that happened today?, What was the hardest thing about today?'. In my house, we talk about how every day has roses and thorns. We take turns around the table talking about our roses and thorns or highs and lows of the day and each person has to take a turn. This is much more specific than just 'was today good?'”

Many parents really want to know that our kids are doing well, not only academically but socially. There are recommended techniques for that as well.

"Refrain from asking the questions 'do you have any friends', but ask 'who did you sit with at lunch or play with at recess? Did anyone do anything that made you smile or laugh today?' This will clue you in on how your child is doing socially. Academic questions that would be good are 'what subject or class are you feeling most confident about right now?' Or 'are there any classes you feel like you’ll need extra help from me in?'"

There are also ways to ask 'beginning of the year' questions.

"One great question to ask is 'what’s the biggest difference between last year and this year?' It gets them talking and thinking about what to expect. Also, it is good to ask 'what are you excited about for this year?' The important part here is being positive. Of course, all of your school conversations around the kids should be positive. Also, avoid using any negative or extremely emotional descriptors about nice or mean. Instead of saying 'is your teacher nice? maybe ask 'what was the most interesting thing your teacher said today?' Instead of saying 'was anyone mean to you?' ask “who was kind to you today?'' said Brinker

More suggested questions:

  • What was the best thing you did at school today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch or play with at recess?
  • Who did you like talking to the most today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • What is the most interesting thing your teacher said today?
  • What made you smile the biggest today?
  • Which subject are you feeling the most comfortable with?
  • Are there any classes you think that you might need some extra help with this year?
  • Can you show me something you learned today?
  • What is the biggest difference between last year and this year?
  • What book are you reading at school right now?

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