With September upon us, most children have headed back to school to fill their days with excitement and activities. And when you welcome them from the school gate, with open arms and, eager ears, keen to hear about the day's triumphs and distasters, you will most likely be greeted with an 'I don't know' or 'I can't remember'.
Does this mean your child has spent the entire school day in a zombie-like state plonked in front of an educational video? Of course not. They have been busy playing with friends and learning something new. And while it is understandable that you want to hear all about the six hours you were apart, your child is not too keen on expending any more energy on the school day, by reliving it as they fill you in.
Here's a few games and ideas to help you tease the information out that you are so desperate to hear.
1. Play Schools You'll need to be subtle about this, bide your time, and wait until later in the evening or even at the weekend. Gather together all the soft toy animals and dolls you can find, and build your own school at home. If you have a playhouse in your garden you could even make a little sign, and mount a bike bell on the outside of the building. Let your child decide who is to be the teacher, and who are the pupils, and let them take the lead to see how this game will flow. Don't expect a word for word reenactment of a typical school day. However, you will see some of the highlights, and some of the strong characters that your child encounters, and this can provide a starting point for a conversation. For example, if your child rings a bell to signify lunch time, you can ask if there is a bell for lunch time at their school. Then ask another question about lunch time. Leave long pauses and your child will likely fill them with information about what they typically do during the school day.
2. Get Swinging Sitting face to face to have a conversation can sometimes feel confrontational. Instead try sitting on swings next to each other, or you can stand behind and push their swing. The swinging motion will also help relax your child, ease of the stresses of the day, and make them more open to conversation.
3. Play A Game Of Eye Spy Play a game of eye spy, then after each letter is answered, ask one question relevant to the answer that could be a conversation starter. Make sure you talk about lots of aspects of your child's life, not just school. School is a huge part of their life, so if you allow the conversation to flow you will eventually get to hear about their day away from you.
4. Play Side By Side Many children simply need to reconnect with their parents before they are ready to have a conversation. Play quietly side by side in ther garden with whatever play equipment you have out there, let your child take the lead, and be attentive to what they are saying.
As tempting as it may be, asking lots of questions is not the way to find out about your child's day. They will feel a lot of pressure, especially when you get frustrated by the inadequate replies and are more likely to shut down than open up. Take the time to be quietly present with your child and they will soon relax enough to share some interesting stories with you.