The first day of school can stir up a whirlwind of emotions for students AND their parents! As our kids head off into the classroom, we sit at home trying to imagine what they are doing. A million questions fill our mind. We try to picture them out at recess and wonder who they're playing with. Did they figure out the hot lunch line? Is the child sitting next to them nice? Will they get on the right bus? Does their teacher read to them? We want to know what is going on at our child's school. We crave the details.
When our child steps off the school bus and arrives at home in the afternoon, we so often launch into a non-stop barrage of questions. More often than not, our eager "How was your day?" is met with a sullen response of "Fine." Unsatisfied with this answer, we begin to pepper our child with even more questions. Who did you sit by at lunch? What did you learn in math today? Were the kids nice to you on the bus? Did you do science today? What did you play at recess? On and on we go -- never quite getting the information and responses we were hoping for.
As I got to thinking about the way our children respond to our questions, I began to think about how I am typically feeling at the end of a long work day. When I've been working hard, adjusting to a new schedule or routine, and/or working my mental, social, and emotional muscles, I am TIRED! After a long day of work, I'm not eager to sit and answer a never-ending string of questions. Our children are not so unlike us. School is their job -- and their little bodies and minds need a rest when they get home. Kids will open up and talk to you about their day if we figure out a better way to communicate.
Here are some things to keep in mind when talking to your children about their school day:
1. Give Them Time
Like adults, kids need time to decompress after a long day's work. Allow your children time to simply rest, relax, or engage in something they enjoy after school. They need time to rebuild their energy, or run off their pent-up energy! Just be patient.
2. Accept What They Offer
When our children choose to share information with us about their day, it's important to be okay with what they choose to share. This means choosing to accept "recess" as an answer to "What was your favorite part of the day?" I've caught myself saying things like, "I don't care about that -- tell me something important." By saying this, we subtly (or not so subtly) communicate to our child that we don't value their words and thoughts. Kids can start to feel that there are "right answers" or certain standards they need to meet to talk with us, and communication can begin to shut down. Keep those lines of communication open, and actively listen to the story about Jenny's outfit or the rules of the game they played in PE. Take an interest. Use what they tell you to follow up with them later in the week. They might not be sharing the details you were hoping for, but by listening with interest, you are setting the tone for a lifetime of communication with your child.
3. Let It Trickle
I wanted to know everything about my children's day as soon as they got home. I had to retrain myself to wait for those details to trickle out of my kids either as they remembered or as they felt comfortable and willing to share. Some kids need time to process information. Over time, little details about their day will come out. I found that my kids were more excited to share with me when they weren't being pressured to produce an answer on the spot. In their own time, they were able to recall the things that were important to them.
4. Don't Take It Personally
It's not personal. It's human nature. When your children just aren't opening up about their school day or giving you all the little minutiae you crave, do NOT take it personally. Just remember that at the end of a long workday, you're often tired, grumpy, hungry, and craving some space, too. (More often than not) it's not about you!
Here's to a wonderful new school year and afternoons full of patient and understanding communication.