Why won’t my child share more Information?
One of the most common things I hear from parents is the desire to hear about their child’s day. Whether at camp, a play-date, or a day at school, we’re anxious to hear all about it!
“So how was school today?” It seems simple enough. For children with language difficulties, however, sharing events from the day can be quite a challenge for several reasons.
Telling others about our day requires integrating several complex skills, such as remembering the details from the day, sequencing the events in the correct order, and forming sentences to describe each event in the past tense. For children with speech and language difficulties, these are no small tasks. When I ask kids what they did at school today, I am often met with responses such as “good”, or “I don’t remember” or, most commonly, “nothing”.
Tips to help your child talk about their day:
• Avoid asking challenging questions during transitions. For children with speech and language difficulties (or anyone for that matter), it’s far more difficult to talk during transitions or while multitasking (e.g. walking in the door, unloading our backpack, fixing a snack). Instead, keep your questions thoughtful and simple during transitions, and save the more challenging questions for when you are home and settled. For example, you might greet you child with “I’m so happy to see you! I can’t wait to hear all about your day.” Once at home, you might say “What did you do at school today?”
• Create a calm space to talk about the day. Sit down face-to-face, and show your child that you have time to listen. You might have “mommy and me time” or “daddy and me time” to sit down and share a snack, play, or just talk. Try to reduce potential interruptions that might make your child feel like she is competing for her turn to talk (e.g. answering the phone, multitasking while listening, being interrupted by siblings).
• Try to avoid question overload. Multiple questions at one time can feel overwhelming. Instead, ask one question at a time, and give your child ample time to respond.
• Give your child “thinking time” to respond. If your child doesn’t respond right away, it’s tempting to ask again or rephrase the question. Instead, just pause and calmly show your child that you have lots of time to listen. You might gently encourage them by saying, “I am so excited to hear about your day,” or, “Hmm, let’s think about what you did at school today.”
• Limit the number of events you ask your child to share. Instead of seeking an 8:00 – 3:00 account of your child’s day, start with just three things. If your child anticipates having to recount numerous details from her day, she might feel shut down or reluctant to share the next time you ask. This is especially true if it’s hard for her to share. Instead, encourage her by saying, “Tell me three things about your day.”
• Use visual support to encourage your child’s language. As your child recalls the day’s events, write them down or draw a picture. For example, you might draw three boxes on a piece of paper. Each time your child shares a detail, draw a picture of it in the box (e.g. book, apple, swing). Afterwards, model the entire sequence by saying, “Wow! What a fun day. First you read a book, then you ate a snack, and finally you went on the swing! Now you tell me about your day!”
• If needed, brainstorm together. This takes the pressure off of your child to recall each event on her own. If she can’t seem to remember, gently probe. You might give her a few choices by saying something like, “Hmm, did you play with friends? Or did you read a book?” If needed, ask her teacher ahead of time for three to four highlights from the day.
• Finally, praise your child for sharing. Whether they shared just a few words or a 30-minute narrative, let her know how much you enjoyed it. You might tell her, “Wow, I’m so glad you shared those details about your day. I loved hearing about it.”