How to connect with your kids after school, or any time

Now that my kids are back in school, they spend most of their day away from me.
They have conversations I never hear, meet people I've never seen and generally have a life that I don't know much about.  That makes me sad!
And I really want to know what they've been doing all day at school.

Since my kids are car riders,
I always pester them inquire about their day when I pick them up from school.  
At first, I asked them simple yes/no questions.

I was really disappointed with the one word answers I was getting.  
So I had to get smarter about the questions I was asking and make a few guidelines.

Here are the guidelines we use:  

1.  No electronics for the few minutes we are 
in the car, riding home

2.  I ask more than yes/no questions.

Here are some of the questions I ask:

Who is the first person you talked to at school?
Who did you sit by at lunch?
(if they have school lunch) What did you have for lunch today?  Did you like it?
What is a nice thing you did for someone?
What is something nice someone did for you?
What made you happy today?
What was your favorite part of your day?
What were you disappointed about today?
What is something you learned today that you didn't know before?
Is there something you would like to change to make tomorrow better?

3.  Something to drink always helps them to relax a bit.
(yay Sonic drive thru!!)

4.  Listen!

5.  Give lots of encouragement.

The second I open my mouth to criticize or correct a behavior 
my kids completely shut down, and won't talk to me any more.  
So I try to be very careful with anything I say during this driving home period. 

Navigating the world of school, friends, teachers, homework,
sports and family is hard work.
Kids need encouragement from those that love them!!

This system really helps my kids and will hopefully help yours too!