It's the issue that rises every time we pick up the phone or Skype to talk to our grown kids and their kids--our Grands: How do you start a conversation with a child old enough to sort-of hold a conversation? Asking, "How is school?" leads to a monosyllabic answer, as does the equally deadening, "How do you like school?"
A few days ago, I posed this question on a grandparenting blog.Susan Adcox, who runs the site, answered that question with some solid advice. (You can link to it here). For starters, she refers to a source who's done a lot of thinking about the issue: Selma Wasserman in her book,Grandparenting by Long Distance. Wassermann suggests that you keep questions specific ("What toy are you playing with?" is better than "What are you doing?"), assume the burden of keeping the conversation going (small children don't yet have the hang of small talk) and, for small children, come up with questions or statements that you use over and over.
Susan, a grandmother with several years of practice, says she's had success talking to her grandkids about things she did with them, asking about movies or TV shows they both may have seen and about any major events coming up--holidays, birthdays, competitions. She also recommends asking about friends: "If you can remember some details about your grandchildren's friends and ask about them, your stock will go up considerably. Friends are so important to older children."
A reader on the grandparenting blog brought up another point: understanding the words the young children are saying.Wildncrazygrandmas says she gets particularly frustrated when she cannot understand them over the phone or Skype. "I have to ask them to repeat what they just said, and I lose them!"
Been there, experienced that.
Checked in with my son-in-law who's a pre-school teacher. He suggested asking kids fun questions that they can answer on their level: Would you rather play in sand or snow? Would you rather be Batman/girl or Luke Skywalker/Princeses Leia? Would you rather be able to be invisible or to fly?
Anyone have any other ideas? Click the comment button and write on.