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'How was school today?' There's a better way to ask

Monday - 11/11/2013, 6:11am  ET

WASHINGTON - Getting a child to talk about school can be like pulling teeth. And when you ask questions such as "How was school today?" often the answer is just "fine" or "OK." Is that the answer you were hoping for? If not, it's not you; it's the question that's the problem.

There are ways for parents to start an actual conversation with kids about school, but the way the question is asked matters. If you give a child the chance to answer with a yes or no answer, he or she will likely do just that. But open-ended questions keep a conversation going.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers "13 (Better) Questions to Ask Your Child About School" on its website. For example, instead of asking "How was school?" ask "What's the biggest difference between this year and last year?" or "What was the best thing you did at school today?"

The center also suggests keeping questions positive and staying away from emotion- packed words such as "happy," "sad," "fun" or "mean." Negative questions can stop a conversation.

A new approach to questions might get a child talking more and provide a parent better insight into how he or she feels about school.

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