Big change this year-- all three of my little boys are going to school! The eldest is in kindergarten this year, and the twins are starting their first year. September 2015 has made me a free woman! (And, most importantly, has allowed me to get back to work!)
However, even though my eldest son tells me everything that happened during his day at school: the activities, the songs, his friends, the people he dislikes, who he spent his recess with, his teacher's latest joke, the color of his girlfriend's underwear (no, just kidding...), etc., I've realized that I know NOTHING about what goes on in the twins' classes.
NADA. Nothing. Nichts. When I ask them: "How was school?" All I get is: "Umm hmm." "What did you do today?" "Umm hmm," "Do you have any friends?" "Umm hmm." Stop, that's enough, boys! You're giving too much away!
So basically, I decided to fix this, and trick them into telling me things about their day. After an online search, I found a few leads that seemed worth a shot.
Here are six questions you can ask your kids after school to get them to talk to you:
What did Ms. Micheline talk to you about today? (The name has been changed for anonymity.)
You need to avoid closed-ended, yes or no questions, at all costs. Asking them what their teacher spoke to them about that day forces them to reflect, to look back on their day and think about the various interactions that they had with their teacher.
Result: Those clever kids, who answer with a curt "yes" or "no" when you ask if they had a good day, are going to have to give you a much more detailed and specific answer.
What color was your teacher's shirt today?
First of all, this will allow you to learn more about the teacher's fashion choices! In addition, it's a funny question, a little quirky, that will make your child laugh and loosen them up. It's the perfect way to set the mood for them to tell you about the rest of their day. Eventually, this will become a ritual; your child may start to think of it as a game. They will start to enjoy noticing what color top their teacher is wearing everyday. And I'm sure that you, too, will find this both fun and hilarious!
Result: A little bit of fun and a small ritual that could come in handy at times when your child doesn't feel like going to school. Of course, you can choose anything else besides the color of their teacher's shirt. It's up to you guys to find out what would be the most fun!
What made you laugh today?
I love this question, but most of all, I love the answers! Because, frankly, most of the time you will only understand half of what your child is saying, and just a quarter of the situation. But it's truly priceless to watch your child as he recounts --with sparkling eyes--the little adventures and situations that made him laugh at school that day.
Result: They will relive the joyful moments that they had at school, and that make them go to school the next day with a positive outlook.
Who did you play with during recess?
Or, Who did you eat with in the cafeteria? My kids don't eat in the cafeteria, but if yours do, that works great, too. By asking this question, you will learn more about your child's friends, both boys and girls. You'll learn if they usually play with the same people or if they change friends like they change underwear (which is often the case in preschool).
Result: Your child will once again be able to reflect on a specific moment of the day, which will get them to tell you several other stories about their friends at school.
Is there anything bothering you at school right now?
Or, alternatively, Does anything scare your about going to school? Ok, I admit that I don't ask my kids this question every day, more like once a week, and my little ones don't really answer it.
But their older brother tends to answer it. He's not necessarily going to volunteer stories about what things he's going through at school. I would even say that the opposite is true. But by asking him this question, I help him put his finger on what isn't making him so happy at school, without making him feel guilty or embarrassed. But be careful: The answers might surprise you!
Result: You show them that they can openly share their problems with you. It can be very reassuring for you to find solutions together.
Is there someone in your class who's going through a hard time these days?
On one hand, this helps your child concentrate on something other than his or her own problems. On the other hand, I noticed how this question allows my kids to feel more invested in their class and their classmates. For example, when one of them told me that there was a little boy who cried the moment his mother left him at school, I made some suggestions: He could ask him if he wanted to play with him, talk to him, or give him a hug.
Result: This is how I found out that my oldest son regularly gives hugs to a girl in her first year of preschool. What a little devil!
And so, now that they've started telling me their stories of the day, I hardly think they'll be able to stop!
I hope that this will help you! If you have any other tricks, feel free to share them in the comments.
Have a great school year, everyone!
This post first appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English.
This blog was also published on the author's blog, Un Jour Un Jeu.