Connecting With Your Kids at the End of the Day
Do you remember when your kids were little, when they would ask you 100 questions a day? There were probably moments when you just felt exhausted fielding so many questions.
“Why is that doggy brown, mommy?”
“Why does rain come from clouds?
And on and on.
If you have a teenager, there are probably moments you look back and miss those innocent preschool questions. Now, instead of giving you a running commentary and asking impulsive questions, you might feel like you have to pry information out of your teen.
You want to connect with them and understand their world, so you ask them the same questions. Every day after school, you ask:
“How was school?”
“How did that test go?”
“Who did you sit with at lunch?”
And you’re frustrated because you get one-word responses like “fine.”
And while it’s understandably frustrating to have your conversation attempts fall flat, you can’t say it’s surprising. Because you’ve been there, haven’t you?
See it From Your Teen's Perspective
You remember how it felt to be exhausted, desperately needing a break, with a preschooler following you around demanding answers to questions? Yeah, that’s how your teen feels after school now.
To put it another way:
Imagine if you came home after a day full of meetings. You’re tired from delivering a presentation to your boss, the small talk among colleagues at lunch, and the long commute. All you want to do is sit down and relax, but before you even take your shoes off you’re hit with a list of questions-
“How was work?”
“Did they like the presentation?”
“Who did you have lunch with?”
Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
There's a Better Way to Communicate
What your teen wants - and needs- at the end of their day is a break from answering questions. They experience more stress in their school day than you might realize. They had to answer questions during literature, they had a math test, they worked on a group project for physics. On top of that, they had to navigate the social stress of the lunch room, picking teams in P.E., and following what everyone’s been talking about on tiktok. They need time to decompress, just like we all do.
So how do we stay connected to our kids without overwhelming them?
To begin with, start treating the conversation more like one with a friend. You don’t just launch question after question to your friends, so don’t do it with your kids either.
Conversations are two-way. Reflect on something that happened in your day first. Tell them you’re happy to see them. Maybe just a simple “hello” to start. Or if you really must… a single question about their day. Not an interrogation.
Listen to what they say. Let them talk without interrupting to give advice, give them disapproving looks, or rush to judgement. Just listen.
And if they don’t want to talk, then follow their lead. Let them decompress a bit. Let them have their time to be quiet after a busy day.
Focus on setting a foundation for connection. Let them know you respect them and want to have a conversation with them. It may not turn out exactly how you want it every day — you’re bound to have days when they don’t want to talk. But then again, it may just be an improvement from where you are now. And they might surprise you with how much they open up when they decide to.