How To Trick A Kid Into Talking About Their Day

by Matthew Utley for

When children go to school, a sort of strange magic happens. You see them leave and welcome them when they return, but what happened in between is a mystery. Who did they talk to? What did they do? What did they learn? Talking to your child about what took place when they were at school is, of course, an important part of being an involved parent. It lets you know about new friends. It helps you identify hidden passions or new interests. It lets you know if they’re struggling with a bully. But getting a child to talk about their day — and by that we mean getting them to say something besides “fine” or ‘okay’ — can be difficult. Breaking through is possible, and it means switching up the same old playbook. And it starts with recognizing that you and your child are on the same team and fighting a shared enemy: silence.

“Your kid loves you and wants to talk to you, but there is some natural resistance. The resistance is your foe, not your kid,” says Shane Owens, Ph.D., a behavioral and cognitive psychologist. “You’re talking to your child, not a suspect in a crime. Patience and understanding are key.”

The long game is best — asking them about their day from a very young age makes it a habit in later years. Parents can model the kind of behavior they want to see by talking about their days, before encouraging a preschooler to talk about what happened at daycare. Starting with positive, gentle conversations can help ease the transition into more emotionally-fraught territory. A kid with a tradition of sharing information who suddenly stops talking about school might be an indication that there is something wrong. That’s when parents need to double down on the patience.
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