Any parent of a young child is likely familiar with the monosyllabic grunt in response to the daily question: “How was school today?” You might get an “OK” or even a “Fine”, but these replies often leave you none the wiser.
Younger children may be more forthcoming to start with, but as the novelty of being at school wears off, there’s a good chance that they too will clam up. When it comes to teenagers, you could compare the attempt to prise information from them as like squeezing blood from a stone.
That’s not to suggest they don’t want to talk to you, but there are various ways to ask your child “how was school today?” that might provoke a more satisfactory response — and perhaps even open up a line of stimulating conversation.
Here are 10 ideas for you to try out.
1. If you were a teacher, what would you like to teach best?
This question has the potential to start a discussion where children can say what their favorite subject is and you can explore why. This will encourage them to think a little more deeply and actively about their education. You could also ask what their least favorite subject is and explore the reasons why. This gives you the opportunity to be encouraging and supportive, perhaps even helping them to think more positively about it.
2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
The answer to this might surprise you, especially if you’re told that the best thing was playing in a band during the lunch break when you didn’t even know your child was in a band! There could be any number of interesting responses, but the main point is that it will help you discover what your child enjoys or is motivated by when at school.
3. Did you help somebody today — and if so, how?
It’s always good to encourage children to think of others and not just themselves. Some children at school may need a little extra help or kindness when teachers are busy. This type of question could gently teach your child to want to be helpful as a natural character trait. You could also ask if somebody helped them in any way. This could help you pick up on something that means they could do with some extra support at school in a particular area.
4. If you had the choice, who would you prefer to sit next to in class?
This could start a discussion about best friends and why a particular person is your child’s favorite. Equally, you could ask who they wouldn’t want to sit next to and explore the reasons why.
5. If aliens appeared in your classroom and said they were going to beam somebody up to their spaceship, who would you want them to take?
Here the answer might be “Me!” as there’s nothing a child likes more than the opportunity to have a thrilling adventure (especially if it means missing school). Again, you can talk about the reasons, especially if it’s the class teacher being beamed up to space.
6. What would your teacher tell me about you if I called her this evening?
You might get a puzzled look and a question as to why you would want to call the teacher, but you can explain the question is hypothetical and try to draw out an interesting reply from your child.
7. Did anything make you laugh today? What was it?
Children have a good sense of humor and the littlest of things can set them off. You probably know what amuses your child and it’s fun to be reminded that a child also has their own space at school for laughing and enjoyment. Providing they’re not laughing at someone else’s misfortune — and you can deal with that sensitively — children get a feeling of wellbeing when they’re having a good time.
8. What was the best or worst part of lunch today?
You’ll know what your child does and doesn’t like to eat, so it’s good to find out more about food preferences at school. You could find a child likes something you’ve never had at home and then try introducing it during the next family meal.
9. What would you do if you were the teacher tomorrow?
You could have a lot of fun with this one, as it opens up all sorts of imaginative possibilities for your child to explore.
10. Is there something you think you should learn less of at school?
Expect the standard answer to be their least favorite subject, but don’t be surprised if your child comes up with something you didn’t anticipate.