Raise your hand if this sounds familiar:
You: “How was school today?”
Your child: “Good.”
End of conversation.
Some children are chatty when it comes to talking about their day, but if yours isn’t, you’re not alone. It can be hard for children to feel talkative when they’re tired after a long day at school. What’s more, they may simply need you to guide the conversation. Social communication skills are complex, and children need a lot of practice to master them.
We checked in with our speech-language therapists and here’s what they had to say about encouraging back-and-forth conversation with your child after school. Remember that you don’t need to ask a lot of questions. Your child might only want to answer one, or they may feel like going on and on. There may be days, too, that they don’t want to talk at all. Follow their lead. The key is staying consistent!
1 – Be curious. Show interest in the work your child brings home, or the homework they’re doing. Ask specific questions about it. I see you worked really hard on this drawing. Can you tell me about it? I see you’re doing addition. Is that easy or challenging?
2- Zero in on a specific activity. It’s common for a child’s day to seem like a blur when you ask them to remember it. Focusing on one particular thing can help. Who did you play with at recess today? Who did you sit with at lunch?
3 – Ask a social question. This is a great way to spark discussion about social themes. How were you kind to someone today? Did you notice anyone feeling sad? Did anyone do anything funny?
4 – Ask open-ended questions. These can help your child think about what you’re asking, rather than giving an automatic reply. When you weave in an emotional theme, it can encourage them to celebrate positive things, or uncover things they may be struggling with. What made you feel happy today? What made you feel frustrated?
5 – Make it a routine. Asking similar types of questions each day helps your child know what to expect, and knowing what to expect supports learning (in this case learning how to recall and retell information, and participate in a back-and-forth interaction).
6 – Turn it around. Prompt your child to ask about your day, too. What do you want to know about my day? At first this may be difficult for them, so offer choices. Do you want to know what I ate for lunch? Do you want to know what made me laugh today?
You can read more about social communication here.