As parents of young children who have started venturing out of the protected walls of our homes without our supervision, we might experience some amount of anxiety relating to their well-being. Making sure that our children are safe when we are not around comes naturally to all parents. It is, in fact, essential to keep a check on what goes on in your child’s life when you are not around. Communication with children then becomes the most significant way of finding out if children are at ease outside the domesticity of home.
It is important to ensure that they are in a comfortable learning environment that supports systematic growth and enables mental development. Everyday conversations about experiences at school can reveal a lot about the child’s academic understanding, physical health as well as mental and emotional well-being. We can get to know about the activities that they perform at school, the people they meet and sit with, the subjects that they enjoy learning, the areas that they might be struggling with and if there exist certain things that are bothering them. With effective communication, we can also stay informed about issues like bullying, ragging, feeling left out, favoritism, discrimination, body-shaming and the like.
More often than not though, our attempts at having these conversations with our children are met with vacant stares, shoulder shrugs, eye rolls or monosyllabic replies. The only answers that we can sometimes extract for the questions of ‘How was your day’ are ‘Fine’ and ‘Okay’. These answers however, fail to convey anything apart from the discomfort surrounding the area of communication.
A lot of us might feel absolutely clueless on how to get our child to open up and talk to us. As parents, we need to understand that we are not alone. The problem of little ones being rather tight-lipped about the activities at school runs common across the world. Understanding that our children might want to talk to us but might not know how, is the beginning of the resolution of this issue.
During a lot of conversations, children might not know how to respond to the question. They might not be aware of what exactly would be the satisfactory answer to the all-encompassing question of ‘How was your day today?’ In order to price out the intricacies of their day at school, we need to modify the questions and make them more specific. We also need to be able to initiate the conversations in a manner that the children enjoy those conversations and look forward to having them more often. So, here are ten questions that can be asked on different occasions in order to acquire more detailed responses.
1. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
Younger kids tend to be inclined towards humor. They love to talk about funny things and laugh a lot. Therefore, they would love to tell you stories that made them laugh through the day. This question acts as a great ice-breaker and opens the door to more conversations.
2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
Talking about the things that the child found difficult during the day will give you an insight into what your child might be struggling with. Through these conversations, you can find the subjects or activities that the child needs additional support for and together, you can head on the road to improvement.
3. Who did you sit with for lunch today?
Lunch hours act as the open grounds for children to interact with each other. Children acquire a lot of their communication skills from these interactions. It is always good to know about the peer group of your child and if they are socializing enough. This can reveal a lot about the overall personality of the child, whether they like being around people or prefer day-dreaming in their own company.
4. Is there anyone in your class who is having a hard time at school? Is there any way you can help?
Empathy building is an important aspect of raising sensitive and concerned humans. A child must be taught to recognize someone’s trouble and look for ways to help them out. Parents can also educate children about the right ways to conduct themselves around people with specific needs and to help whoever is in need of help.
5. How did someone fill your kindness bucket today? Did you fill anyone’s bucket?
Introduce a kindness bucket where children can keep a note of the acts of kindness that someone did for them. This helps children in acknowledging and appreciating the things people do for them and also encourage them to do the same for others. This activity can also be carried out at home.
6. What was the Peak and the Pit?
Encourage your child to recognize their highs and lows, their peaks and their pits. This helps in the formation of discerning capabilities of the child and widens their understanding about their own selves. The peak and the pit exercise goes a long way in building self-evaluation skills and the child can communicate about themselves and their struggles in a better manner when they are self aware.
7. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
This question builds up the domains of anticipation and hope. You will get an insight into the aspects of school your child enjoys and the things that they are looking forward to indulging themselves in. This also develops the ability of a child to foresee or estimate the happenings at school the next day by recognizing the usual pattern.
8. What made you sad or what made you cry?
It is essential for children to be able to recognize their emotions and be able to make sense of the reasons of experiencing those emotions. Asking this question makes them investigate the causes of their reactions to situations. So instead of just reacting, children will be able to pause a little and understand the cause of the discomfort.
9. Is there someone who made you feel uncomfortable or conscious?
Venturing out in public spaces implies coming in contact with different kinds of personalities. There might exist some people who the children don’t feel comfortable around. These people could include peers, teachers or the support staff. Talking about this would help you in recognizing issues that your child might be dealing with and the ways in which they can be resolved.
10. When did you feel most proud of yourself?
A little appreciation goes a long way in boosting the self esteem of a child. Recognizing achievements and applauding the child for their everyday victories help in building a sense of purpose. When children know that certain actions attract appreciation, they are more likely to perform those actions.
Along with modifications in the questions, we need to bring about some other changes too in order to carry out effective communication with children. Beginning with the tonality, parents must ensure that the conversation is not carried out in an interrogative manner. Investigative tones tend to make children become more cautious and secretive. Along with that, parents must ensure that they are not distracted while the child is speaking. Just like adults, children like to be listened to and not just heard. Maintaining the same eye-level as the child is another impactful factor, for it works a great deal towards making the child more comfortable.
Another activity that contributes greatly towards establishing a sense of comfort and creating connections between the child and the parent would be spending one-on-one quality time with each other. ‘Pillow Time’ could be a wonderful activity for strengthening bonds and improving communication channels. While lying next to your child, talk about your day and encourage them to do the same. This activity has therapeutic effects on both the child and the parent. Within days, you will notice a transformation in the way your child connects with you and soon, you will witness the child communicating about their fears, problems, dreams and desires.
As parents, we need to acknowledge that our children are still in the process of learning about the environment. They mimic whatever they see around them. Parents can model the behavior that they want their kids to exhibit by talking about their day. This would present communication as the norm and would encourage children to initiate conversations and share their thoughts.
Younger children tend to grasp habits quickly and tend to carry those habits with them. When communication is brought to play in their everyday life, children become habitual of talking and sharing. Having a stable communication channel pays off greatly during the troubled teenage years when the children would need to have interactions more often.
As children are in a continuous process of learning and growing up, parents are also in a process of learning to be parents. Parenting is a steady process and it takes time to build stable bonds with children. Once you start enjoying the cycle of learning, it would turn out to be exceptionally rewarding.
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