How to get your child chatting: beyond “How was your day?”
By Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP
It’s a fact: parents want to know about their child’s day. We want to know about their classes, their social life, and what they ate for lunch. Children with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) often have trouble answering the usual flood of questions that parents so lovingly ask. This can turn the ride home into a painstaking exchange. Students with LBLD may have language formulation difficulties or an auditory processing disorder that makes it challenging to respond to parents’ questions.
I bet this dialogue sounds familiar.
Parent: “How was your day?”
Parent: “What did you do today?”
Parent: “Did you ask Mr. Smith about the Algebra homework that you didn’t understand and did you sign up for soccer?”
Parent: “Do you want to play a sport this season?”
Child: “I don’t know.” How can you get your child to share more about their day?
Try these four tips:
- Find out about their day by doing your own investigation. Perhaps your child’s school posts activities, events, or course links on their website or in a weekly newsletter. Armed with this information, you can fine-tune your conversation and questions. Maybe it could go something like this: “Who did you vote for in today’s student council election?”
- Avoid open ended and yes/no questions. The type of question you ask is key! Ask specific "Wh"-questions. For example, you could ask, “Who was your lab partner in science class today?” or “What kind of sandwich did you make for lunch?” Check out this link to Bloom’s Taxonomy for a hierarchy of questions.
- Allow time for your child to process the question and formulate a response. Small moments of silence may mean that your child is thinking, even though it may appear that he’s ignoring you or didn’t hear you. Also, ask one question at a time; too much language at once can be difficult for your child to process.
- Use a multiple-choice format. Some children have trouble sharing information due to word retrieval or memory difficulties. For these children, a multiple-choice format works best. For example, rather than asking, “Which sport do you want to play this fall?” You can ask, “Do you want to run cross country or play soccer?”
So, on your next ride home or at the dinner table, try following these tips. You may be surprised by the more meaningful conversations you’ll have with your children.
About the Author Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP – Landmark High School Speech-Language Pathologist/Consultant and Landmark Outreach Program Adjunct Faculty