We’ve all been there—school starts up again, and suddenly the intricacies of your children’s experiences are lost to you. They come home from school, you ask them how their days went, and all they say is a nondescript “fine,” “okay,” or “good.” What’s a parent or nanny to do? How can we encourage a more communicative relationship with the children we care so much about?
If you’re a parent, it’s important to coordinate questions and communicate with your nanny so your child doesn’t clam up, get frustrated, or feel as though he/she is being asked the same things over and over. If you’re a caregiver, keep in mind that a large part of providing professional nanny services for a family is keeping the parents up to date with what questions you’ve asked and what the kids have told you.
Now, there is no foolproof way to get children to talk to you, but there are certain strategies you can use to make the after-school conversation with the kids feel less like an interrogation.
Try asking specific, open-ended questions. When you ask a child “How was your day?,” it may be too vague for his or her brain to process, and that information overload can lead to the dreaded one-word response. Many young children need specific questions to prompt them to remember details about their day. Ask questions like, “What was the most fun part of recess today?” and “Tell me about the best (or worst) thing that happened to you today.” That way, they’ll have the opportunity to strengthen their memory and storytelling skills, and you’ll feel like you know what’s going on in their world.
You may want to familiarize yourself with your child’s daily schedule in order to tailor your questions to what you know he or she did that day (library, gym, art, etc.). It’s also good to keep track of what they’re learning. By asking questions about subjects you know their teachers are focusing on in class, you can help them commit the things they’ve learned to memory.
Share details about your day. If your child still seems reluctant to talk, it can help to model what you want from them by telling them how your own day went. This is an effective way to teach children how to listen and communicate empathetically with others; it also gives you a chance to share your interests with your children. A good place to do this is at the dinner table. If you make family dinners a safe space for kids to talk about their lives, it encourages a sense of intimacy within the family unit and can show the children how to be emotionally open and interact positively with friends as well as with family members.
The best thing you can do, though, is listen! Oftentimes kids need downtime after the school day ends to decompress. Make sure to pay attention to the signals you receive from your child, and be fully present to listen whenever he or she wants to talk. This is easy advice to give, but it’s often difficult to put into practice; kids only seem to want to talk whenever we have a million things going on! Nevertheless, there truly is no substitute for undivided attention from a parent or nanny. The more we listen, the more they’ll talk.