Need new ways to ask your kids, "How was your day?"

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As we transition back into the school year, I can't help but think about one of the first challenges I faced in graduate school. My professor had us role playing a therapy session where we weren't allowed to ask any questions. Can you imagine?! I kept thinking, "How am I supposed to engage in an authentic, therapeutic conversation with a client without asking one question?"

But this turned out to be such a great activity to practice because as it turns out, children hate questions. This is likely no surprise to you. Questions are direct, can be confronting, and oftentimes children feel the pressure to respond in a way to please the adult rather than to express their genuine feelings.

Really getting to know a child does not require us to ask questions. If we have enough information to ask a question, we have enough information to make a statement. Let that one sit with you for a minute.

When we ask questions, we communicate that we do not understand.

What children really need is a safe and trustworthy relationship where they can be themselves, feel validated, and be understood.

So how do we find out about their school day without asking questions?

First, we're present. We let them know we are here to listen. It's on their time table, not ours.

Next, we observe. Do they look energized? Exhausted? Sad? Full of joy? We reflect the feelings that we see in their bodies.

Then, we set the stage. Give them a snack to conquer hunger, play some music to decrease stress, or let them change into comfy clothes.

Lastly, we prompt in a nonthreatening way. Instead of making eye contact, chat while on a walk or while driving in the car to decrease the pressure.

Here are some example prompts you can use:

  • You look (insert feeling word here)

  • I wonder which of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse

  • Tell me about what you played at recess

  • I wonder who had the best lunch/snack today

  • Tell me something that was hard today

  • If an alien spaceship came to your class, I wonder who you'd like them to beam up into outer space

  • Tell me about someone who helped you today

  • I wonder if you could sit by anyone in your classroom who it would be

  • Tell me something that made you laugh today

Jaclyn Sepp