Important Insights for Caregivers
Ask your children to remember what they did in school when they were not with you or when they had a special outing. If children can’t think of anything to say, ask more specific questions. Listen to what your children tell you. Ask more questions, including your opinion on what happened. Avoid correcting your children about their impressions. These conversations can take place at any time when there is spare time – for example, at a bus stop or in a waiting room. Elaborative reminiscence can support the development of children’s language and reading skills (e.g., storytelling skills, vocabulary understanding, phonological awareness) as well as the socio-emotional development of children (e.g., reduced anxiety and withdrawal, increased helpful behavior, better understanding and control of negative emotions, improved autobiographical memory).
„What did you do in school today?“: Elaborative Resemiscence Can Provide Answers
Most parents wonder when they pick up their child from school, „What did you do in school today?“ and hear their child’s response, „Nothing.“ What happens next depends on many factors, but mostly on the parents. Some parents think their child just doesn’t want to talk about their day and change the subject. Other parents challenge their child (e.g., by saying something like, „No, that didn’t happen…“), which is usually not more successful than changing the subject. Success would mean that the child would receive an extensive description of what happened during an experience.
My colleague Carole Peterson (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada) and I wanted to better understand the strategies parents use to effectively get children to talk about their day. We conducted a study in Newfoundland (Canada) with European-American families of the middle class with two- to two-and-a-half-year-old children. We found that the most successful strategy for parents to gather information was to ask specific follow-up questions, such as „What did you play during recess?“ or „What stories did the teacher read to you?“ Children of parents who asked many questions on a specific topic became the best storytellers a year later, telling longer stories that included more key elements such as background information and details on how situations were resolved. We call such parents „elaborative reminiscers.“