Growing up, I remember one thing that my mother was very adamant about: Being home and ready to greet us when we got home from school. She understood the importance of that critical time period, and made sure not be distracted by other things. She carefully planned her schedule to make sure that very rarely did anything ever conflict with that time period. That moment when kids first get home from school is one of the best moments for parents to communicate with them and really understand what’s going on in their lives. This is the most likely moment that they will open up to talk and share. It’s important as parents that we make this a joyful moment for our kids, one when they know they will always feel loved. If your kid has had a bad day, or is dealing with some rough stuff, it’s important for them to know that they will walk in the door to loving and supporting hands. Whatever has been on their minds will likely be on the surface as they transition from school to home. This is the time to ask questions. You may be tempted to get them started on homework really quickly, or rush them to some commitment, but it would be useful to utilize this time for conversation. Want to get your kids to open up? Here are a few ways to do it:
- FOOD. My mom would often greet us with a snack as we came in the door. Why? Because kids are often hungry by the end of the school day, and it’s a good way to get your kid’s immediate attention. They have a “hub” or a place to go the moment they get home: the kitchen. This can be a great place to start the conversation of “How was your day at school today?” I even had a friend whose mom passed out the snacks after the kids started talking. If she asked “how was your day?” her kids knew that “fine” was not an appropriate response to earn that snack that was sitting there waiting. This doesn’t mean that you have to always bake something fabulous, my kids get overjoyed just over yogurt!
- Family Dance Party: If your kids aren’t old enough to think they are too old to dance around the kitchen and be silly with mom, this is a great way to break the ice and help transition your child from whatever day they have had at school, into their safe (and friendly) home environment. Plus, some kids just need to get some tension out before they are ready to talk.
- Car Time. If the drive home from school is longer, or you must drive them straight to sports (or other commitments), take advantage of your time in the car. Keep the radio off and use this time to converse with each other. If you sense something needs to be talked about, take a longer route home.
- Read together. This can accomplish bonding and homework at the same time. Make a tradition of reading together after school while enjoying a fun snack (younger kids can enjoy being read to, and older kids can read aloud to you). Afterwards, follow up with how their day went (or start reading time that way).
I would love to hear some more ideas on how you take the time to bond with your children after school!
Whatever, and however you do it, just make sure you are doing it!