‘How was school today?’ ‘Fine.’ A lot of parents that I know are frustrated about this one-word response. And since I spoke two weeks ago about listening to your child, here are some ideas to get him talking.

First, you must know that you are not alone! Most children when asked the question ‘How was school today?’ respond with ‘OK!’, and think that’s the end of the conversation. But it doesn’t have to be the case. There are a few simple things you can do to encourage them to tell you more and, with a bit of luck, before long you’ll know a lot more about their day at school.

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Why talking about school is hard?

‘How was school?’ is a big question. To answer, your child must sum up an entire day, and that’s hard for children (and even grown-ups!) to do.

A child might want to say, ‘My day was so crowded with ideas and classes and social stuff that I don’t know where to start’. So, it’s easier just to say, ‘Fine’.

Some children feel their school experiences are private, so they might not want to share them. This is a typical part of school-age development as children start to shape their own identities and social worlds. But your child still wishes to know you’re there when she’s ready to talk.

Sneaky ways to encourage your child to talk about his day in school!

Why talking about school is important?

Talking with your child about the school day reveals you’re interested in what’s going on in his life. This interest improves his mental health, happiness and wellbeing. It can also have a very positive effect on your child’s achievement and behavior. It shows your child that you value school and education, which encourages him to value it too. To read more about listening to your child click here.

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Strategies for talking about school with your child

  1. Ask the right questions

If asking a general question like ‘So how was school today?’ isn’t getting the response you would like, then try asking more precise questions about things that happen in school and the people who are there. When you ask your child about his day, attempt to use open-ended questions. These invite answers that are longer than ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘OK’ which answers that give you little insight into their school day.

Questions like those listed below will provide you with the sort of information you want to hear:

About school in general

1-     What does your classroom look like now?

2-     What was the greatest thing that happened at school today?  (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

3-     Where do you play the most at recess?

4-     What was your favorite part of lunch?

About what they learned at school

1-     Tell me one thing that you learned today.

2-     Did you do anything on the whiteboard today?

3-     What did you do that was easy today? Was anything hard?

4-     What’s your science/history/geography topic this term?

About teachers

1-     Who was your favorite teacher today?

2-     How was your teacher today?

3-     Did anyone get on his nerves today?

4-     Did anyone make his laugh today?

About other children at school

1-     Did anyone make you laugh today?

2-     If you could choose who would you like to be seated by in class?  (Who would you NOT want to be seated by in class?  Why?)

3-     Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

4-     Is there anyone in your class that needs a time out?

  1. Ask at the right time

If you pick your child up from school, be patient and don't ask him lots of questions straight away. This is probably the worst time to ask, as they are probably least likely to want to answer. You can just let your child know that you’re glad to see him, and talk about non-school topics for a while.

Once you reach home your child will probably be tired and hungry or thinking about other things. So, easing the transition from school or after-school activities to home can help your child feel more like talking. Wait until evening or you are eating dinner together or even until the weekend and it will be different. Another good time might be when you are going through the contents of your child’s school bag or reading folder, as this can give you an opportunity to discuss anything they bring home.

  1. Be a good role model

Tell your child about your day, different things you have learned, things you have enjoyed and things that haven’t been pleasant. This provides them with a good role model and will inspire them to talk to you about their experiences. You might also talk to them about how things were when you were at school and to ask them if things are the same at their school.  

  1. Fine’ is fine – sometimes

Even if your child usually loves to share his day with you, there’ll be days when he doesn’t want to talk. Sometimes it’s a matter of sensing his mood and picking the right moment. Some days there might not be a right moment at all, and that’s okay. Remember, you can find out about how your child is getting on by talking to other parents whose children might have told them things of which you were unaware. You may also find that if your child has a friend home to play with after school, they tell you a lot more than when they are alone with you.

And remember, if you want to find out how your child is getting on at school, talk to their teacher – not only at parents’ evenings, but also through the year.


By Noora Khalifa Albinkhalil

Founder and Principal of Al Shorooq Preschool

Sneaky ways to encourage your child to talk about his day in school!

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