“How was your day?”
“Fine.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing.”

More than just a tired back-and-forth, this conversation can be frustrating. You want to know what happens during the many hours your child is in school. While report cards, test data, and teacher conferences give you some information, you know it is far from a complete picture. How your children interact with their peers, the dynamics on the playground, how your children feel about their progress, their teacher(s) and their friends, is all invaluable insight into their world.

Several years back, Judith Rich Harris, an independent psychology researcher and textbook author, wrote The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out The Way They Do. Through her research, she found that a child’s peer group has more bearing on a child’s personality development than his/her parents. Her work has been discussed for more than a decade now and, while it is difficult to quantify just how great an influence parents, peers and genes play in a child’s development, it is clear that each have an important role. All the more reason to know whom your child is spending time with at school, right? Additionally, we know that consistent negative peer experiences leads to increased anxiousness, loneliness, and depression.

Helping our children navigate their social world is extremely important, but knowing if they need that help and if they are making progress can be tricky. That is where frequent dialogue and checking in can help. If you find it is difficult getting your preteen to talk about their day, try doing an activity together. Build Legos, dry dishes, fold the laundry, walk the dog – anything that resembles a casual conversation instead of interrogation. For your little ones, perhaps drawing a picture about their day and having them narrate it would help loosen those lips.

Here are a few alternative questions to “How was your day?” to mix into your daily conversations:

  1. Who would you like to play with that you have never played with before?
  2. What did your teacher say the most often today?
  3. Who had the best lunch?
  4. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why?
  5. What was the best thing that happened today?
  6. What was the worst thing that happened today?
  7. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
  8. Who in your class could you be nicer to?
  9. Is there anyone who plays alone at recess? Do they need a friend?
  10. What was the best part about recess today?
  11. Who is the friendliest person in your class?
  12. What made you laugh today?
  13. Who are you most excited to see when you get to school?
  14. Did anything make you sad or mad today?
  15. If you could be excused from one class, which one would it be?
  16. If you could go to one class all day, which one would it be?
  17. What are the top 3 things you hear people say in the halls?
  18. If you could read minds, what teacher’s mind would you read? What classmate’s? Whose mind would you NOT want to read?
  19. Who did you help today? Who helped you?
  20. What do you think the teachers talked about in the staff room after school today?
  21. What do people do in the hallways in between classes or on their way to class?
  22. What was one thing you read in school today?
  23. What do you think you should do more of at school? What should you do less of?
  24. What was one thing you learned today?
  25. If an alien spaceship landed at your school, who would you like them to beam aboard their ship and take back to their home planet?

Keep a list of these questions handy on your phone or printed out on your fridge. Ask a few on your car rides or you can even make a routine out of going around the dinner table and allowing everyone to share about their day. Have fun with it.

Many of these questions were sourced from www.simplesimonandco.com, check out their website for even more questions to ask.

Resources:
“25 Ways to Ask Your Teens “How Was School Today?” WITHOUT Asking Them “How Was School Today?” – Simple Simon and Company.” Simple Simon and Company. N.p., 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
“25 Ways To Ask Your Kids How Was School Today.” Simple Simon and Company. N.p., 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. “Do Parents Matter?” Scientific American Global RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.