I am very lucky in that I get to speak to K pretty much often as I want. I phone every morning before school, and every evening, just around bedtime. Of course every so often, I find that suddenly it’s 10pm, and I have missed the window, for whatever reason (flat phone or traffic usually, but I admit that there has been the odd night where I’ve been out for dinner or the like, and just don;’t realise the time. Until I do, and the disappointment I feel in myself in those moments is awful). Point is, our phone calls are the two highlights in my day.
The length of our conversations vary from as little as a minute sometimes, more than half an hour on occasion. These long chats are incredibly special. They just seem to spontaneously develop into the most engaging, meaningful interactions.
Then there are the other times. When all I get out of K is yes or no, some one-word answers, and one or two sentences, if I’m lucky. I get it, sometimes when I call, he is busy with something else. I’m quite happy to share a quick “I love you” and say bye.
But often, our conversation doesn’t flow because I’m not asking the right questions.
Did you have a good day?, only requires a yes / no answer.
How was your day?, is a slight improvement. But it can still just be answered with a single adjective.
Tell me about break-time. What games did you guys play?, is much better. Open-ended questions invite a longer response, I also try to ask about a specific incident, or person, or time of day, but I have found that, if I go on to ask to many where, when, why, how follow-ups K feels pressured and we end up right back at one-word answers. Bringing up a topic, as it were, but without pressing for any particular details, plants the seed of something to share with me, but on his terms. He can then say as much or little as he recalls, or as he feels like.
I am slowly getting the hang of how to make meaningful conversation with my 10-year old, and it is a wonderful change from the old days when at times we both felt like we were participating in an interrogation of sorts.
I also found a list of suggested questions to use as starting points for conversation, and have been adding / editing through trial and error.
- What did you eat for lunch?
- Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
- What games did you play at recess?
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
- What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
- Who made you smile today?
- Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
- What new fact did you learn today?
- Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
- What challenged you today?
- What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
- If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
- If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
- Did anyone push your buttons today?
- Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
- What is your teacher’s most important rule?
- Did anyone make your laugh today?
- Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
- Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
- If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
- What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
- When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
- What rule was the hardest to follow today?
- What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
- Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
- Which area of your school is the most fun?
- Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
- Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?