For years it went like this when I'd go to pick my son up from school each day: I'd been missing him all day, wondering what he was up to, how things were going, what he'd learned, and with whom he had played. I'd be so excited to see him and hear all about it, only to be met with the disappointing drone of "nothing" and "I don't know" punctuated with a couple of shoulder shrugs.
Nothing. I'd grow frustrated, he got fed up with my probing, and still I knew little more about his day than I did before I picked him up. Then I started figuring out some little techniques that seemed to get him to open up more and more. I still don't get the play-by-by that some moms I know get from their kids, but here are some tips I've found for getting my formerly tight-lipped kid to give me some insight into his day.
1. It has to happen in the car
If we wait until we get home, there's homework, neighborhood kids pulling him out to play, the TV, and distractions galore. Trapped alone in the car is your best chance at conversation. If you have a television in your car, make weekdays a no-watch zone, and prohibit video games, earphones, telephones, and the like.
2. Tell them about your day
It's a bit like playing hard to get, but when I don't seem too eager to ask him questions and I start telling him what I did instead, he usually chimes in with some anecdotes of his own.
3. Set a number of questions you can ask
We agreed that I could ask at least three questions each day that he'd answer no matter what. Some of my favorites: Did anyone get in trouble at school today? (This usually produces some stories.) Or: What did you do at recess today?
4. Have them pick a rose and a thorn for the day
A rose is their favorite thing that happened, and a thorn is something that didn't go quite right.
5. Recognize that some days they're just not in the mood to talk
It happens to all of us -- sometimes we just don't want to talk to anyone. Know when to stop probing so they'll be more willing to chat other times.
Are your kids chatty after school? What ways do you get them to open up?
Image via Julie Ryan Evans