“How was your day at school?”
While this may be a great question to ask some kids after school, others will give you a short “fine” or “okay” in response.
“Did you eat your lunch?”
“What did you eat?”
Response: “Food.” By this point, you may even hear an irritated sigh or grunt.
This was how my conversations would usually go with my younger brother when I used to babysit him after school. The one word, blow off answers would start to irritate me in turn. Here I am trying to show an interest in your life and you are refusing to participate! It was (dare I say) annoying, especially on the days when I had my own hardships.
This went on for months. Mostly, because I felt that he needed to comply with my approach rather than me changing how I was interacting with him. I am the authoritative figure in this situation, no? Shouldn’t he conform to my ways? While these might have been the subconscious principles behind my approach then, I have since come to realize that to guide children or mentor teenagers you need to meet them where they are at. Not emotionally stand 100 feet away and tell them, “you either come to me or else.”
Eventually, my “how was your day at school?” question resulted in a full-blown yelling match (yeah... I could have used a resource like this at the moment). Something my brother yelled made me stop in my tracks:
“I don’t want to talk right after school! I’m TOO TIRED!!”
I didn’t even think of the fact that my timing of asking him about his day (aka, as he got into the car at pick-up or the minute he walked through the front door) might be causing a good chunk of the tension around this situation. I later asked him if giving him 20 minutes of alone time right after school would be enough and we agreed to talk about the day only after he’s had his time to decompress.
I had come across an article that gave cool conversation starter ideas. The next day, after 20 minutes of alone time, instead of starting the conversation the usual way, I asked the most on-the-nose fun question: What superpower would you prefer to have, to fly or to be able to swim underwater?
My brother immediately perked up. I could feel how refreshing my question felt for both me and him. It started such a fun conversation and afterwards, it was much easier to transition into: “What was the most fun thing that happened at school today?” and “What was the hardest?” and “Tell me about your day.”
Since then, I’ve come across many resources that help teachers, parents, and babysitters like I once was to engage the kids they are working with.
Below are some cool lists of conversation starters!
To have meaningful relationships, we need to have meaningful conversations. So pick a few questions you like to ask after school, at dinner, or while hanging out and kickstart meaningful conversation and grow deeper connections.
Till next time,
Wishing you ease, joy and safety.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.