Parenthood: how to get your children to (really!) talk about their school day

It's all a game!

I don't know about you, but I miss my children when they are in school. I do.

Don't get me wrong: I cherish and need (and yes, many times craaaave) the hours I have to myself, but when my son Nicolas (10), and my daughters Fini (8) and Flori (5) are in school, I think of them and most of the time (depending on how our morning went) I do so fondly.

Will Flori be ok without her sweater which we forgot at home? How will Fini's presentation on the skeletal system go (yes, she is in second grade) and will Nicky stop showing off his skills at Gaga ball during the break (which always results in him getting in trouble with the fifth graders)?

When pick - up time comes around, I am eager to see my little one's faces and to hear all about their day. That is until three things happen:

1. The minute I pick them up and they complain. The weather is too hot. I am tired. The snack is too boring. I am really tired. And why do we need to drive to the supermarket now anyway? Mum, I am tireeeed! I found that focusing on my breathing always helps in these situations...

2. My children start fighting with each other the minute we get in the car. You touched me. No, I didn't. Stop kicking my seat. I am not. You smell. Do not. Do too. You get the gist.

3. My children don't talk - at all. How was your day? Fine. Anything special? Nope. What did you do? Nothing. What did you have for lunch? Can't remember. Great! Good talking, son.

All three of these scenarios annoy me (situation 1. and 2. usually result in me getting loud, which is followed by regret which is followed by guilt - parents, you know the routine), but scenario 3. actually makes me really sad.

With a large part of our day spent apart, as a parent, I want to know at least some basics: were you happy today? What was great about your day? Was there anything that you didn't like? What annoyed you? What did you learn? And for the love of God, what did you eat for lunch? Anyone?

Since this 'one - word reply' seem to be a common problem parents face, I have looked around and found some 'recommended questions' parents are supposed to ask their children to encourage openness and dialogue.

Some of these questions are:

- what was the funniest thing that happened today?

- what was the most helpful thing you did for someone else?

- who made you smile today?

- what challenged you today?

- what would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? And why?

- if you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?

- if the school were a ride at the fair, which ride would you be? Why?

- tell me something you learned about a friend today.

- when did you feel most proud of yourself today?

- what is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?

I tried these questions with my children, all of them. And by that, I mean all questions and with every child of mine. But I didn't get anywhere. My children's answers remained just as short, were not informative or helpful in any way. Example:

When I asked my son what he learned about a friend one day, he replied that his buddy T. likes to fart. When I asked him what made him smile that day, my son replied: Well, T.'s farting made me smile, a lot! And when I asked my son about the helpful thing he did in school that day, he replied: Well, I opened the classroom window to let the smell out. And, mum, that was helpful to everyone! Nuff said.

So, instead of more questions, I tried it with a game - and let me tell you, this game was a game changer! A friend of mine had told me to ask my children to share four facts about their day with me. In Flori's case: I played with Annie on the playground and I was proud because I was able to climb the monkey bars; I held Chiara's hand on the way to lunch, and that made me happy - she is my best friend!; I was able to read the spelling work my teacher gave me although I found it really difficult, and since it's Tuesday, I had Tacos. (Taco Tuesday... it's an American thing).

The secret to this game is that ONE of the stories the children tell me has to be FALSE. And it is up to me to guess which one. Oh, the joy!

May I just share with you how well this game has worked?! My kids love it and are even fighting over who gets to start the minute they get in the car (which also distracts them from scenario 1. (complaining/sulking) and 2. (fighting with each other)).

During the last two months, my children have shared more information about their school day than ever before. I now know what they do, who they hang out with, which classes they like and dislike, their favorite teacher, and what activities they like best.

And yes, my dear friends, I finally also know what each of my children had for lunch.

Why don't you try it out and let me know - I would love to hear whether this is working with your little ones too!

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

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