Four Questions to Ask Kids After School

When I have dinner with my family, I like to hear about how my 8-year-old daughter’s day was at school. I want to know about what she learned, who she played with, and what made her laugh. So, I ask, “How was your day?” She quickly replies, “Good.” Conversation over. 

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been in my shoes before. You have a good desire to know your child in deeper ways, but it’s like they have no interest in sharing their experiences. It’s a frustrating place to be in as a parent. To be honest, it can be a bit demoralizing. Like any relationship, there needs to be give and take. Yet, with kids, it can feel like parents do a lot of the giving and don’t get a lot in return.

Our desire to know our children is hardwired into us by God. As God’s image bearers, we reflect his character in the world. One of his most loving characteristics is his desire to know us intimately. Of course, he already knows everything about us. Just read 1 John 3:20, “He knows everything.” Yet, God doesn’t stand afar off pondering his knowledge of us. Instead, he is like a parent who gets down on his knees to look his children in the eyes. He comes down to our level to know us and be known by us. Likewise, we have an innate need to know those we love. And not just to know them, but for them to know us. So, parents, your attempts to know your child is God at work in you. Keep it up.

I’m no expert in getting my daughter to talk about her day, but I have found a number of questions that open her up better than “How was your day?”

Get curious

“What was the most interesting thing in your day?” is one of my go-to questions for my daughter. I find that she always responds positively to this question. It’s more concrete than just asking generally about her day. It asks her to think through what she thought was interesting in her day, not what she thinks I might find interesting. Usually, she tells me about something that was out of the ordinary like, “I had art class today,” or “We had an assembly this morning.” This opens up an opportunity to ask more specifically about those experiences.

Get humorous

“What made you laugh today?” I’ll be honest, the first time I asked this question, I got a confused look from my daughter. She laughs all the time. How could she think of just one thing that made her laugh? Yet, it can still spark a connection between us, even if it’s just laughing at my own question.

Get hungry

“What did you eat for lunch today?” Unless I packed her lunch, my daughter loves to talk about what she had for lunch. Just a couple of days ago, she told me all about how she and her friends have a game called “Vacuum”. When one of them gets full at lunch, they look at someone and say “Vacuum!” It’s a signal that someone else can eat the rest of their food. Apparently, the teacher doesn’t want them doing this, so my daughter told me that some of them have to keep an eye out for a teacher during the vacuuming. I appreciate the trust my daughter had in me as she told me about something she wasn’t supposed to be doing.

Get honest

“Did anything upset you?” This question often comes up after I’ve heard about some kind of stressful event that happened at school. Recently, it was a case of bullying among her friends. She was in the middle of the two friends acting as a peacemaker. By learning about this event, my wife and I were able to ask follow up questions about how her friends were doing now and how she was doing. It gave her space to express her anxiety amid a difficult situation.

Be vulnerable

“My day had a few ups and downs.” As parents, when we do all the asking, we can forget to share about ourselves. Just as God wants to know and be known, so we need to know and be known. Your children might not be mature enough to ask about your day, but you can invite them in by telling them a story or two about your day. Don’t just share about the happy moments, but also about the moments you felt sad or angry. Express your feelings to them and also share how you were able to work through your emotions. Maybe you haven’t fully gotten past some of the hardest parts of your day, so just share that. It’s okay if your children know you are as human as they are.

Give thanks

As you both share about your day, offer your gratefulness to God for all that he’s doing in your life. Give thanks for art class and assemblies. Give thanks for laughter and lunch. Give thanks for peacemakers and a God who can handle our anxieties. Lead your child into spiritual reflection through prayer. This is where discipleship so often happens.

About the author — Rev. Travis Jamieson

Travis Jamieson pastors a church in the heart of Silicon Valley and hosts The Faith (In)Forming Podcast. He’s married to Annie and they have two beautiful red-headed children

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