That are better than “how was your day?”
Wendy and I are both the parents of middle schoolers and we’re both in the trenches with all that that brings. As a former middle school teacher, I’m not terrified of this age. If I were ever to go back to teaching, my first choice would be to teach middle school because I really enjoy kids this age, even if I did have to Google VSCO Girl. However, there’s no denying that this is a hard time for our kids. They leave the comfort of elementary school for an environment that isn’t unlike a social, academic and emotional blender.
I admit to being a helicopter parent, but middle school has forced me to let go of a lot of that. I don’t know most of the kids my son spends time with during the day, I wouldn’t recognize most of his teachers on a crowded street, and I have much less of a feel for what a day is like for him than I did in elementary school. That doesn’t mean I don’t want that information, it just means that I’m going to have to go straight to the source and hope that the source is willing to talk.
My son is like most kids his age in that his favorite answer, when asked about his day, is, “fine.” We mostly broke the kids of this habit by asking them to answer us in a sentence starting in early elementary school. “My day was good, because…” This was helpful but they usually defaulted to “My day was good because I played handball at recess.” It wasn’t exactly the deep look into my kid’s brain that I was hoping for.
Now that I’m dealing with a middle schooler, I make sure to ask specific questions in order to get specific answers. So, with that in mind, here are some of the questions I’m known to ask. To be clear, I’m not running down this list daily. I ask a question or two, and usually when we’re driving somewhere and I have a captive audience.
20 Questions to Ask Your Middle Schooler
- What was the best part of your day?
- What was the worst part of your day?
- Tell me about one of your friends.
- Who do you eat lunch with?
- What did your English teacher teach today? (Replace with the subject of your choice.)
- What do your friends bring for lunch?
- Which teacher makes you laugh?
- Which class is the hardest right now?
- What are you reading?
- Is there anything fun happening at school?
- Did you meet anyone new?
- What’s the funniest thing that happened today?
- What class do you wish you could skip this week?
- What class do you wish lasted longer?
- Is anything stressing you out?
- Is anyone bugging you?
- Who is working hardest on your group project?
- What do your friends do after school?
- How can I help you?
- Is there anything you want me to know?
I also like to do a little soft-sleuthing of my own. I scroll through the school’s Instagram account and read the emails from his school with updates. This gives me specific things to ask about, like the lunchtime tug-o-war competition or ASB elections. Often these are things he wouldn’t tell me about but has something to say.
Books I’m Planning To Read
It’s probably obvious that I’m the sort of person that loves information. I like to know things. I know there’s no book that will hold my hand through the next several years, but anything that will give me the perspective I need to remember that my oldest is in this semi-hellish middle ground between childhood and adulthood could be helpful.