Small Talk: How to get your preschooler to talk about his or her day
It's a classic scenario. You pick your child up from school, give them a big squeeze and almost immediately start asking questions about his or her day. Don't worry, we're all guilty! It's natural to want to start talking to our little ones the moment we see them. We've missed them all day. When you ask the question, "how was your day today? what did you do today?" the typical response is either a grunt or the infamous "N" word...nothing. (insert sigh) We all know that they did something during their day. Snack? Color? Recess? Bathroom? Anything...?
We don't need need to be our kids' best friends, but something more than a grunt would sure be nice. Preschoolers understand a lot, but are still learning the language skills to really express what they want to say in a way that makes sense to mommy or daddy. So it is a lot easier for them to say "I don't know" rather than funnel their thoughts into a single sentence in attempt to capture their whole day.
The good news is that there are some pretty simple ways of connecting with our little ones and have them open up about their day. Here is some insight as it relates to helping our children zero in on detail:
Asking our children questions immediately following a long day is usually the last thing they want. Our kids need to know that we are connecting with them before the game of 20 questions can begin! Being present and offering to carry their backpack or letting them know how much you missed them is a great way to break the ice. Once our little ones know that mommy or daddy has their back, this will set the stage for them to open up.
One great tip is to ask specific questions versus generic. For example, instead of asking "how was lunch?" you could say "during lunch, did you sit next to Gabby or Brennan?" Asking for specifics will help our preschoolers to go back to that exact moment in their day and usually a snowball affect will take place. We might learn who they sat next to, what they ate, who was absent from the table and what they did after lunch. General questions may also work such as "did you sing any songs today?" or "who did you play with outside today?" When we ask "did you have fun today?" or "how was your day?" we are prompting for one word answers versus dialogue. "yes, fine...grunt!"
Next, if our child says something negative about his or her day, it is really important that we don't overreact! Kids tend to shut down if our reactions are too much. You may be thinking, oh goodness, everyone is picking on my child at school. And as a parent, that is a fair concern. Most of us have a general understanding of the flow of the day at school but unfortunately, we can't be a fly on the wall so we sometimes feel out of the loop. Rest assured, nine times out of ten, the issue is much smaller than we might think. Instead of reacting with too much emotion, try to be empathetic and say "I'm so sorry that Johnny grabbed the toy out of your hand. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day."
Lastly, for some of us, finding time in our jam packed days feels impossible. We tend to be on the go, bouncing from school to sports and home for dinner and bedtime. For those of us who are shuttling around town most of the week, try to take advantage of the regular moments in our day. Walking to school, being the car or bedtime are great times for no pressure chats. Setting aside time for parent-kid connection is important. Even as little as 10 minutes each day. Building a puzzle together or coloring together are great moments to have casual conversations and let our kids know that they have our full attention during that time.
Ultimately, you want your kid to enjoy talking to you.The more they walk away from conversation whether they are telling you something fun or they’re telling you something they’re scared about—and think, I feel better, the more likely they are to come back. As always, we welcome feedback and tips for small talk! Together, we are a village.