‘How was school today?’ ‘OK.’ Every afternoon, parents across Singapore get the same frustrating one-word answer. Here are some ideas to get your child talking about school.
Why talking about school is hard
‘How was school?’ is a big question. To answer, your child has to sum up a whole day, and that’s hard for children (and even grown-ups!) to do.
A child might really want to say, ‘My day was so jam-packed with ideas and classes and social stuff that I don’t know where to start’. So it’s easier just to say, ‘OK’.
Some children feel their school experiences are private, so they might not want to share them. This is a normal part of school-age development as children start to shape their own identities and social worlds. But your child still needs to know you’re there when she’s ready to talk.
Why talking about school is important
Talking with your child about the school day shows you’re interested in what’s going on in his life. This interest boosts his mental health, happiness and wellbeing. It can also have a very positive effect on your child’s behaviour and achievement. It shows your child that you value school and education, which encourages him to value it too.
Talking together about school also helps you get to know more about what’s expected of your child at school, how she learns and how she handles challenges. It can help you understand when she’s feeling less interested in school or having problems.
When you’re in touch with your child’s feelings about school, you’re more likely to see problems before they get too big. This way you can work on overcoming challenges together.
And talking about school issues – like school projects or friendship problems – is also a great chance for you to express your family values about things like teamwork, respect for self and others, friendships, relationships, problem-solving and so on.
If your child is having problems, you can start by talking with his teacher.
Strategies for talking about school with your child
Your child will probably be tired and hungry or thinking about other things when she first gets home. So easing the transition from school or after-school activities to home can help your child feel more like talking.
If you pick your child up from school, try to avoid asking him lots of questions straight away. You can just let your child know that you’re glad to see him, and talk about non-school topics for a while. Younger children will probably also like help unpacking their bags and going through any notes before you ask about school.
Saving questions about homework for later on can also take the pressure off!
Every afternoon or evening will be different. Even if your child usually loves to share her day with you, there’ll be days when she doesn’t want to talk. Sometimes it’s a matter of sensing her mood and picking the right moment. Some days there might not be a right moment at all, and that’s OK.
Simple, positive and specific questions about parts of the day can get your child talking. For example:
When you ask your child about his day, try to use open-ended questions. These invite answers that are longer than ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘OK’. For example, you could ask your child what he did in class after recess.