The start of a new school year is certainly an exciting, and somewhat anxious, time for parents and kids. Parents want their kids to report to them on how they are adjusting to their new teachers, school, friends, bus, etc. I, for one, want details! When kids get home from school, we ask, “How was your day?” They most commonly answer “fine”. An answer that doesn’t give us what we’re really looking for. We want to know details but we also don’t want to interrogate them the minute they get home. So how can we get what we really want, and in some cases, need to know? I suggest:
Give Me a Thumber (Rank the Day) – ask your child to rate their day on a scale. They can give you a thumber, a thumbs up, thumbs down or sideways so you have a sense of how they’re doing. For more detail, you could have them rank their day on a scale of 1-10 with 1 = not a good day and 10 = a really great day. This is a great way to assess how things are going over time. If your child is reporting a 9 each day and then comes home to report an 8, you know that something happened to lose that point. It gives you an opportunity to discuss what happened.
Best & Worst Part of the Day – During a time when the family is together (ex. Meal time) have each family member share one thing that was the best part of their day and one thing that was the worst part. This gives you an opportunity to hear some details of their lives while also teaching them perspective taking as they listen about aspects of your day as well.
Ask Specific Questions – if you want more detailed answers than ask more detailed questions such as:
• Who are the really nice kids in school?
• Are there any kids who aren’t nice?
• Who did you play with at recess?
• What did you do at recess?
• Who did you sit with on the bus and at lunch?
• What do the kids chat about during lunch and recess?
• Does anyone get bullied?
• Do you bully anyone?
This will seem like an interrogation if asked all these questions at once, so choose the ones that are most important and switch them up for variety. Be sure to listen for changes in which kids your child is spending time with so you can ask about that as well. For example, if they sit with the same child on the bus each day and suddenly they are sitting with someone else, they may have a social issue that they need advice on or to just to talk about.
Ask Your Child’s Teacher – teachers are a great source of information regarding the social connections your child is, or isn’t, making at school. You may schedule time with teachers to ask if your child has friends at school and ask if they can share their names with you so you can set up playdates. The teacher may not be able to give this information to you due to privacy but may be willing to share your contact information with other families instead. If the teacher doesn’t see friendships forming, ask if he or she has ideas as to why. Knowing what the issues are is important to provide support for friendships. Your child may act very differently at school than they do at home so you may not be aware of the barriers that are hindering social connections. You could also ask about volunteer opportunities for you to help out in the classroom. You will be able to view for yourself the dynamics of the social environment.
If You Discover a Social Issue – discuss your concerns with the classroom teacher and the school guidance department or school psychologist. These professionals can offer a tremendous amount of support to kids who struggle socially but it may require parents asking for help for them to be aware of an issue.
Understanding the social life of your child can prove to strengthen your relationship with him or her. As long as parents don’t overreact to incidences that occur, your child will trust that they can talk to you about things that happen. As parents we can’t always “fix” what happens to our kids but we can certainly offer lots of empathy and a sympathetic ear. Just having someone to listen can make a huge difference to a child who has had a tough day.
So the next time your child comes home from school, rather than asking “how was your day?” try “give me a thumber” and see what happens next!