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Checking in With Your Child

by Medina Jackson

When your child starts kindergarten, moves to a new school, or enters an unfamiliar setting, they may have thoughts and feelings they might not share with you on their own. But so much is happening that you should know about. Have conversations with your child ever sounded like this?

“How was your day?”
“Good.”
“What did you do in school?”
“Nothing.”

You may feel there’s a lot more they could be telling you but you’re not really sure about what to say to get more information. If you feel comfortable, consider using some or all of the questions below to connect and dig deeper. Use them as often as you can on the way home from school, or if your child will be riding the school bus, talk when you settle in at home. Having these conversations when your child is young builds a strong foundation for open communication as they grow older. In fact, they may become so engaged in the process that they start asking questions to check in with you.

When I do this with my 8 year old son, I start by giving him a big hug and saying, “You can tell me anything, as long as it’s the truth.” Through this dialogue with my son, I learned about a child who was bullying him, a teacher who deserved praise from me for making him feel special, and so much more.

What to ask your child

Did anything happen today that...

…made you feel sad, mad, appreciated, loved, frustrated, excited, happy, uncomfortable, scared?

…you’re scared to tell me?

…someone told you not to tell me?

Did anyone say...

…something that hurt your feelings?

…something about how you look?

…they would hurt you if you told us something secret?

Did you say or do anything...

…to hurt someone else’s feelings?

…that made someone smile?

Think about the weather. Some days are sunny, cloudy, rainy, right? I would describe my day as sunny, how would you describe yours?

Think about your teachers. What kind of day do you think they had today? Why? Were they smiling? Did they look happy? Were they frowning? Did they seem upset?

Can you tell me about the kids in your class? What are their names? Who did you eat lunch with? Who played with you during recess? Can you tell me more about them?

Are the kids nice to each other? What kinds of things happen at lunch time or at recess?

What's your favorite part of the school day? Is there anything you don't like about school?

These questions can give you a general sense of their experiences and you can find out if anything is happening that’s exciting or that you should be worried about. Let your curiosity lead you as you talk with you child. Be open to anything they have to say without judgement, and prepare for the unexpected.

 

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