How to Engage Kids After School

I'm sure you've lived this reality...your child gets in the car and pulls out his/her phone. You rush to ask about his day. "It was fine.," he replies. You try to dig deeper. "Did anything fun happen?" "Nope." Maybe you shoot for practical - "Do you have any homework?" My (least) favorite response to this is, "I don't know." I'll be honest, I'm not sure how that can possibly be, but that's a different post!

The fact is, our kids are tired after a long day at school. They really don't want to talk to us any more than we want to talk after a long day at work. Here are some quick tips for how to engage kids after school:

  • Sound enthusiastic when you greet them. I know it may seem silly, but this goes a long way toward kids wanting to talk to parents. If we don't sound like we want to be with them, they have no desire to talk.

  • Start soft..."How was your day" is okay. I usually start here. Another option is, "What was the best part of your day?" It's okay if that was lunch or PE. The goal is getting an answer. Open-ended tends to be best but if you're not getting anywhere, go for yes/no questions.

  • Give him/her time to settle in. They may get their phone out. Sometimes my son just zones out for a few minutes. That's okay.

  • You can always play, "high," "low," "betcha didn't know." This is where the child has to share something good, something bad, and something we couldn't guess. I don't recommend it every day as it can get rote.

  • Sometimes I ask if anything exciting happened. This is usually when I found out about kids who got in trouble.

  • If they answer your questions, listen to the answers. Then follow up. These are good questions for kids:

  • Why did she do that?

  • What happened next?

  • What did you think of that?

  • Who did that?

  • Where was he when that happened?

  • When will _______ happen?

  • How will you know if ________?

  • Keep in mind that right after school is generally NOT the time for a teachable moment. Just listen. File away topics you may need to address later.

  • If there's time, do something fun. Ice cream is always a big hit in our family.

  • Let them be. Sometimes just letting our kids unwind a bit is the best engagement we can offer. if I can tell my son had a bad day and just wants to play on his phone a bit, I'll put in an audio book or turn on the radio and we don't talk.

This is just a quick list of some engagement ideas for the after school drive home. What techniques work for you?

With love,

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