When you need more than “I don’t know”: The High/Low Game

The school year has finally begun and you are dying to know how your child’s day went.  How was their teacher?  Were their peers nice to them? Did they find the work hard? So you ask your child and, after a long pause where you think he or she is thinking about a response, you get, “I don’t know” or “Nothing”.  You are left starving for more but you don’t know what else to ask.  And now you are just frustrated.


Getting your children to talk about their day can be challenging, especially if you want to know if he or she is experiencing stress oranxiety.  On one hand, you don’t want your child focusing only on the negative parts of the day.  We don’t want to begin the pattern of mental filtering early, after all. (Note: Mental filtering refers to the tendency to filter out the positive things and focus on the negative things, even when the positive things outweigh the negative).  It is essential to encourage balanced thinking by prompting our children to think not only about the negative parts of their day, but the highlights of their day as well.  We also don’t want to ask them close-ended questions that require them only to answer with one word (ex. “How was your day?” Good. “Did you learn anything fun?” No.).

That’s where the High/Low Game comes in handy.  I have recommended this game to parents of young children, as well as, adolescents as a way to initiate conversation.  It is a very simple process: “What was your favourite part of the day?” and “What was your least favourite part of the day?”  These questions can foster further prompting questions, such as:

  1. What didn’t you like that?
  2. What would have made it better?
  3. Why did that make you happy?
  4. Was it easy or hard to do?
  5. What happened after that?

It can also help with problem-solving skills building (“What could you do differently next time?”), verbal skills (“Tell me more”), and empathy building (“How do you think he/she felt?”).  The High/Low Game can allow you to spend quality time with your child and learn about them and their personalities.

An integral part of the game is reciprocity.  Everyone in the family participates.  This encourages role-modelling, as your child can learn from you about how you solve your problems or handle emotions such as anxiety or anger.  Reciprocity increases comfort levels, since it may change the perception from an interrogation to a conversation.  It supports turn-taking and appropriate social interactions (ex. waiting for their turn to speak, not interrupting, reading facial cues and other nonverbal communication skills).

The High/Low Game can help you begin the dialogue between you and your child.  Here are a few more links to help you find ways to get your child talking.




Interested in counselling for you or your child/adolescent?? Contact me for further information.


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