Ask About Your Child's Day...Effectively!
Even if your child has a communication disorder!
We all want to know about our children’s days. We want the gossip! We want to connect and share.
However, when many parents ask "how was your day?" In response, they usually get the dreaded answer…. "fine" or "good." When asked… "what did you do all day".....the answer is "nothing." Then, the conversation ends there.
To help with this, the internet is full of pages that list very specific questions to ask your child such as “tell me something funny that happened after school.” These specific questions are helpful for normally developing children. However, they are not the end-all-be-all for children who have a speech and language disorder.
1. Be aware of Vocabulary!
For starters, be aware of the vocabulary you use around your child! This just comes naturally to me. It’s ingrained. However, I just had a shocking revelation….not all caregivers are professionally trained speech pathologists and don’t subconsciously monitor all language input/output when talking to others. I know...shocking!
A child who has a speech-language disorder, may have trouble understanding and expressing vocabulary words. For example, if you ask your child… “who did you play with after school?”....start to think...does my child understand “after?” After is a temporal concept that can be hard to grasp. Does my child know that “who” means a person?
This tip will take some practice, but as you ask your child about his/her day, think about every word in your sentence. Keep it simple. If you want your child to share a story with you, make sure he/she understands the question.
Kinda obvious but hard to accomplish!
Example questions that contain high frequency (easy to understand) vocabulary words:
- Which friend was being funny today? What was so silly?
- Did anyone make bad choices? What did he/she do?
- What games did you play on the playground?
- Did you fall down today? How did you feel better?
- When school was all done, what games did you play in the gym?
2. Ask Question YOU Know the Answer To!
It can be helpful to ask your child a question that you know the answer to. This way, if your child is struggling to answer a question, you can provide a choice of options.
For example, you ask… “what did you eat for lunch?” Your child says “I don’t know.” You could say…. “Hmm...did you have a taco or a sandwich?” (you know the answer since you packed the lunch!)
By providing choices for answers, you help to repair any communication breakdown and keep the conversation going. Also, you teach your child HOW to answer the question.
3. Use Visuals
This one might be the most helpful tip!!! Visuals can work wonders, seriously. The type of “visuals” will depend on the needs of your child, his/her age, and his/her language abilities. I’ll discuss some ideas now to help you start brainstorming for your own child.
We are so connected to our phones and take pictures ALL THE TIME. One of the positive results of this phenomenon is a visual record of our days. So, when asking your child about what he/she did, bring out some pictures and show him/her. Talk about the pictures together. For a recap of school, get out the class picture. Point to and talk about what other students did that day. Or, just name friends and talk about what your child does with friends.
AAC - Alternative Augmentative Communication
Some children need alternative ways to communicate. This could mean a simple picture system where a child points to picture or gives pictures to express needs and wants. It could also be a more sophisticated computer device.
Either way, if your child uses an AAC system to communicate at any point during the day, make sure to use that system at home as well. Use the system to share stories and ideas.
If your child doesn't have a device but needs one, just print out some pictures such as a picture of a park, toys, food, or any other daily activity. Have your child chose a picture in response to “what did you do today?” Talk about the activity together.
4. Ask Specific Questions
ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS. Avoid general, open-ended questions. These can be overwhelming. Children, especially children with a speech-language disorder, will most likely say…. “I don’t know.”
Instead, while watching your vocabulary...asking specific, interesting questions such as
- Did a friend get in trouble today?
- Did someone fall down and get hurt today?
- What game did you choose during choice time?
- What did you eat for lunch?
- What made you laugh today?
For more tips on how to ask questions EFFECTIVELY, check out our membership portion of Speech Therapy Talk!
5. Pick The Right Time
If I’m tired, hungry, cranky, or distracted by a great TV show, I don’t want to talk to anyone. Right?! Then, I’m not sure why we hold our children to a higher standard.
Sometimes, right after school, children are HUNGRY and TIRED. They don't have the energy to talk. I realized this when my ever-so-wise 4 year old said “mommy, I’m too tired to talk right now” as I was asking him one million questions during the car ride home from school. Oops...obviously!
Let your child rest, eat, and breathe. When he/she seems to be in a good mood with all the basic needs met, then, by all means, get the scoop of the day!
6. Avoid Eye Contact
Children who have a communication disorder often have anxiety about answering questions. Understanding a question, reading the social cues, thinking of a response, and then saying it can be hard and a little scary. Therefore, when put on the spot, they might freeze or avoid the whole thing.
To help build confidence with expressive language, try asking questions when your child isn’t on the spot, a.k.a. when you aren’t making direct eye contact.
Some ideas include asking questions:
- While driving in the car: Your child is in the back and therefore there is less pressure.
- While cuddling before bed: With the lights dim, there is less pressure. This one really works!
- On a walk: While walking, there seems to be less pressure since there are other activities going on besides just listening to your child’s responses (like walking!)