How parents should talk to kids about their school day

“How was school?” 

“Fine.”

How can you get your kids to give more than one-word answers when you ask them about their day?

Psychologist and CBS News contributor Lisa Damour gives parents tips for how to get past that after-school stalemate in her latest column for the New York Times, “When Teenagers Bristle at ‘How Was School?’”

First and foremost, Damour said parents should be aware of the stress that kids get from school, including long and tiring hours, being in close quarters with peers they may not be fond of and pressures in the classroom.

Damour also offered the following tips:

  • Lower your expectations
  • Get specific
  • Ask “How come?”
  • Help by not helping

For parents,asking “how is your day?” may merely be a simple desire to engage with their kids. But Damour said parents should give kids some time to decompress and follow their cues. 

“And so if we can expect that or be on the lookout for them to bring things up, often we can connect then and much more on their terms,” Damour said.

Damour also reminded parents that like them, kids also “come home and unload,” and that parents should expect their complaints. She said parents should keep in mind that the complaints come in three categories: things they like, things they can handle, and things they cannot handle. 

Damour also shared what one student told her when she visited a group of ninth-graders. When she asked if there was anything the students would like her to pass along to their parents, one student said, “Please tell them that when I complain about my school day, the only thing I want them to say back is, ‘Oh my God, that stinks.’” 

“And I thought that was right,” Damour said. “She’s trying to connect. That’s the connection that we should have.”