It’s the question we as mothers are dying to ask every day. While our babies are away at school, we try to picture them on the playground, imagine what they might be doing, and think about what they are learning. We want to know how our child is spending their day. Eagerly, we wait for the bus to arrive so we can have that moment of connection we’ve been longing for all day. (You know where I’m going with this..) With perhaps a bit too much effervescence in our voice, we ask, “So, how was your day?!” And, we don’t quite get what we were hoping for…(Unless of course you were going for a snarl, eye roll, or a grumpy “Fine!”)

I started thinking about the way our kids respond to the classic, “How was your day?” or “What did you do at school today?” questions, and I was reminded of several things. I remember being a kid and DREADING being asked that question. I always knew it was coming on the ride home, but hated having to come up with something to say. I thought about my husband at the end of his work day. I always want to immediately open up and start chatting away about the day, and I think he’s feeling a lot like the kid fresh off the school bus.

Give Them Time

Like someone at the end of a long day of work, your child needs TIME. School is your child’s job, and they have been hard at work all day. When they come home, like most adults, they will not want to talk right away. Give them time to decompress. Allow them to relax, rest, run off some energy….become refreshed. I remember coming home after a day of teaching just craving a bit of time alone. I wasn’t ready to be cordial. I needed a minute. Give your child some time….

Don’t Take it Personally

When you’ve had a long day, do you want to have a conversation with Mary Sunshine? I don’t. When I’m tired, and have spent all day working, I tend to be a little grumpy. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m craving freedom. Your child is too. When they get off the bus in a bad mood, or are less than chatty, just remember that it’s not about you.

Don’t Bombard

Raise your hand if you LOVE being bombarded with 20 questions after hours of work. You’re not raising your hand huh? Asking 68 questions about their day will just overwhelm your child (at any age.) Ditch the “How was your day? Who did you play with? Did you eat your lunch? What did you do for math? etc, etc. and select one or two questions at first. I’ve found one of the best first questions is, “What was the BEST part of your day?” It’s an open-ended question and may be easier for them to answer. This leads right into my next point….

Let it Trickle

Be patient. Let the details of their day seep out over time. When Hannah came home from her first day at a new school, I wanted to know EVERYTHING. After a few minutes of breaking all these rules and trying to get information out of her, I’m convinced she’d hold up well in an interrogation. However, as the day wore on, she’d reveal more about her day. Pieces of information came back to her, as she had time to process the events of the day in her head. I learned to be grateful for the slow trickle of details that she was willing to give in HER own time. Without the pressure of having to produce answers to a super-cheery mother, she was able to tell me the things that were important to her…the things she remembered…and she did so with JOY. Gone was the sullen, “I don’t remember.” or the frustrated “Nothing.” She was excited to talk, because I wasn’t pressuring her. (My FAVORITE part of the day was when I cuddled up in her bed at night, and she just started to open up..telling me all kinds of things she did during the day! Late night talks with kids, when they are comfortable, full, and at ease, are some of the BEST times to get them to open up!)

Accept What They Give You

Are you listening? This may be the most important point to remember…Accept the answers they give you. If you ask what the best part of their day was, and they respond with “recess”, be okay with that. If we respond with, “Oh c’mon…tell me something REAL you liked,” or “I don’t care about recess…What was something important you did?”, what we are telling our child is that we don’t value what they are saying. We’re sending the message that they have to live up to some type of standard when they talk to us…that they aren’t free to share what’s on their mind…to let us in on the things that matter to them….If we start sending that message now, what will happen when they’re teenagers and struggling with peer pressure, bullying, or relationships? Will they fear they’ll be shut down by a parent who doesn’t care? Accept what they share. Be interested and invested. Use what they tell you to follow up, and develop conversation with them….talking about what they are into…Just listen…Be open…Don’t expect a certain answer, and be grateful for what they choose to share. Set the tone for a lifetime of communication with your child.