Let’s set the scene: You’re pulling out the school pickup line and heading home. You’re curious about what happened when your kid wasn’t with you and ask them questions like, “How was your day? How did the test go? Did you learn anything interesting today?” And all you’re getting in return are one-word answers (if you’re lucky). What’s a parent to do? According to parenting coach Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta, it’s totally normal for your kid to shut down at the end of the school day—and peppering them with questions the minute they enter your car can seem a bit like an interrogation.

This time of day is a transition between school and after-school hours, and kids need to ease into it, explained Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta in a recent TikTok. She also offers alternatives to the “How was your day?” questions that might have better success after you’re done with school pickup.


♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

First off, you can offer them a snack that you brought for them from home. This shows that you were thinking of them and takes the pressure off the situation. You can ask them if they’d like to listen to Taylor Swift or classical music (or whatever their favorite genre of music might be). Maybe you’d want to share something about your day to model the sharing behavior you’d like to see from them. This could be something like, “I had a really dicey meeting today,” and then you’d explain what happened. And lastly, you could just be quiet. Think about how you feel when you walk in the door after a particularly hectic day. Silence is often what you are looking for.

This behavior often changes as your kids get older. You might be shocked when your never-stops-talking kid turns into a quiet, sullen tween. But sometimes creating a safe space for them to share what they want when they want is all you need to do to get some tidbits of information about their day.

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