Advice on how to have after-school chats with your kids

Here's some advice for parents on how to have after-school chats with their kids.

This is a guide on how to ask certain questions about their school day to get the best information, what to ask about and how to do it.

Before school begins set a tone of anticipation of all the things that your child will learn and all the new experiences he or she will have this year. When you pick up your child after school be ready to give them your attention and let them know you are interested in hearing how their day went.

A good opener is to say, "Tell me about your day" and then base the rest of the conversation on what your child chooses to talk about. Be slow to jump in with a question if your child is excited and talkative. Smiling, nodding, and pausing are a good strategies to use to give your child time to think and to continue talking.

When you ask questions ask questions that can't be answered by a simple word or phrase like "yes", "no", "nothing", or "I don't know." Use who, what, where, when, why, and how whenever you can or make a statement that your child can respond to. For example, "What are you studying in science?", "Tell me about your favorite subject", "What does your teacher do to make class interesting?", "Tell me one thing you learned in math today?", etc. To get a sense of the social environment talking about lunch and/or recess works, too. You might start out with "What did you eat for lunch?" and then ask "Who did you sit with?" or "Tell me about one new person you met in school today."

Set a positive example and look for the bright spots - for example, during family time establish a routine that each person in the family gets to talk about one thing that they really liked about their day at school or work. This gives everyone a chance to practice talking and listening to each other. If the topic turns negative you could make a rule that everyone needs to find two good things for each bad thing that is brought up.

First days are usually exciting and they can be a little scary. For students who are experiencing stress over the first day, let them know that their feelings are normal. Try talking with them about their fears ahead of time and planning for ways they can handle the situations that might come up. Reassure your child that there will be many caring adults to help them work out any difficulties. At the end of the day talk about how your child handled those new situations and praise them for facing something that was hard. Let them know they are developing skills that will help them as they grow up.

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