6 Ways to Get an Awesome Response to "How Was Your Day?"

These questions can lead to more meaningful conversations with kids

Sometimes it feels like the moments when you can learn about your school-age child's day or have a meaningful conversation with your teen are few and far between. In a rush to connect in a limited amount of time, many parents default to asking "How was your day?" on the way home from school or at the dinner table. And in response, they receive the standard one-word answer like "fine" or "good."

Of course, these one-word answers are not good fodder for a healthy discussion. If this happens to you, it is time to get creative when it comes to asking your kids about their day. Doing so will help you have a more meaningful conversation. Here's how you can get a better response to the age-old question "How was your day?"

Avoid Pressuring Your Child

Often, it is best to avoid asking about a test, a grade, or anything academic, or about practices and performances. For many kids, questions that deal with their performance in some way create anxiety and cause them to shut down.

They either feel defensive or are anxious about meeting expectations. Instead, ask general, open-ended questions like "What was the bravest thing you did today?" or "What was the kindest thing you saw at school today?"

It is also a good idea to refrain from probing for more information than your child or teen wants to offer.

Be patient and wait silently to see if there is more to come. Many times, kids will offer more information if you demonstrate that you are listening but not judging. Offering too much advice or trying to fix something also can cause kids to shut down.

Reframe the Question

Instead of asking a generic question, mix it up a bit. Unique questions teach kids the art of conversation, and they also provide you with a better picture of what is going on in their lives and in their hearts.

You can try these prompts, but you will also want to gear your questions to your child's age, interests, and activities. For instance, ask "What are you learning about in math class?" one day, and "What did you do in gym class?" on another. Slowly rotate through your child's class schedule.

19 Alternatives to "How Was Your Day?"

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What was the hardest thing you did today?
  • If you could pick three friends to play with/hang out with, who would they be and why?
  • Who put a smile on your face today?
  • What was your least favorite part of the day?
  • If today was a color, what would it be and why?
  • What is one creative thing you did today?
  • Tell me about a book you are reading.
  • Were you bored today? Why or why not?
  • Tell me about a problem you solved today.
  • Was today a fast day or a slow day? Why?
  • What rule do you have to follow that makes no sense?
  • Did anything happen today that made you proud?
  • Did you face any particular challenges today?
  • What was the kindest thing you did today?
  • Do you have any questions for me about your day?
  • What are you excited about right now?
  • If you could pack anything in your lunch tomorrow, what would it be and why?
  • What is the most important thing you learned today?

Use Time Together Wisely

When you are traveling in the car or sitting at the dinner table together, your child is likely open to talking because there are limited distractions. There also is something about riding in a car that often gets kids to open up and share.

Part of it has to do with the fact that they do not have to make eye contact with you unless they want to. They can look out the window if they want. These are the best times to get your kids to talk about their day.

Take advantage of this captured time together to strike up a conversation. Turn down the radio. Ask them to put away their devices so you can talk to one another about life.

Turn It Into a Game

Sometimes getting the conversation going at the dinner table can take a little effort and creativity. Some parents find that using a family fun night or conversation games like "High/Low" or "Would You Rather?" are really helpful.

To play "High/Low," everyone at the dinner table takes turns telling the others one high point of the day and one low point of the day. Hearing what your kids consider a high point and what they consider a low point can provide a lot of insight into their lives and act as a conversation starter.

"Would You Rather" is a fun way to interact with one another by using absurd questions like "Would you rather drink one jar of pickle juice or smell like a dill pickle for a week?" or "Would you rather have a water balloon fight every day or a food fight once a week?"

There are no rules as to what the questions can or can't be about. Let everyone take turns making up questions.

Make Sure You Are Listening

Depending on your child, you may only get one chance to ask a question and receive an answer. Put away your electronics, avoid thinking about work, and give your child your full attention. Then ask your question and wait for the answer. Be quiet and listen.

Giving kids space and the opportunity to answer is as important as asking the right question. 

Then, once your child has answered you, continue to sit quietly. Sometimes kids remember something else they want to add or they think of another story they want to share with you that had nothing to do with your initial question. 

Learning to sit tight not only gives your child the space to share, but it also improves your active listening skills. Look at your child and make eye contact if you can. Then, concentrate on watching your child and listening. You should not only listen to your child's words, but you should also pay attention to what is not being said. 

Remember, you are the person your child wants to share with. Being a good listener shows your child that you are present and that you are interested in them. 

There’s something about someone who really listens to you that says, "I care about you." When kids know that they have unconditional love and concern from you, it boosts their self-esteem and opens up the path for good communication for years to come.

Stay Available

Kids can be unpredictable when it comes to sharing about their day. They may not seem that interested in talking to you when you ask them about their day in the car or play a conversation game at the dinner table. But later, as you walk into their room to say goodnight, they suddenly want to tell you about the fight they had with their best friend.

Whenever your child chooses to share, make every effort to stop and listen to what they have to say.

They are making an effort to share with you, and you want to do what you can to encourage this type of conversation. The more often you show your kids that you are interested in their lives, the more often they will open up to you.

Likewise, if your school-age child or your tween comes into your home office to talk, make time for them. If you are doing something that cannot be interrupted, ask if you can talk in 15 minutes and then follow through with your promise.

You want to be sure your kids know you are available to them. If you are busy or preoccupied every time they want to talk to you, then you will likely get the same response from them when you reach out about their day. They will be too busy or preoccupied to truly engage in a conversation with you.

How to Handle One-Word Responses

If, no matter how hard you try, your child still seems to answer everything with a conversation-ender like, "Yes," "No," "Fine," or "I don't know," don't stress out too much. Do your best to accept that they may just prefer not to share a lot.

But that also doesn't mean that you should not try to connect on some level. Try talking about something that happened during your day. Mention what you learned or saw at work or talk about a memory you have from your own childhood.

A Word From Verywell

Even if you don't end up talking specifically about your child's day, you may still end up having a great conversation about another topic. Questions beyond "How was your day?" help you get to know your child better. And, the time you spend talking and listening reinforces to kids that you are interested in them and value their thoughts and opinions.

1 Source
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  1. McAdams TA, Rijsdijk FV, Narusyte J, et al. Associations between the parent-child relationship and adolescent self-worth: a genetically informed study of twin parents and their adolescent childrenJ Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;58(1):46–54. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12600