This year, more than ever, it’s important to positively connect with our kids after school. School days can be long and exhausting, no matter what age they are at. Once they are out of school, they likely don’t enjoy being hounded with the same questions every single day.
“Do you have homework?”
“Were you good?”
“What did you learn?”
Sometimes, depending on their level of exhaustion, prompting these questions too soon can make them turn inward and avoid interaction. As parents we want to ensure that our kids feel supported when they transition from school to home each day. They put in more effort than we may realize.
There are still opportunities to connect even in the busiest moments. Here are some ways you can positively connect with your kids after school:
Give them a big smile the moment you see them.
There is nothing more comforting than someone who is happy to see you, right? Share those good vibes!
Give them space to unwind.
Just like we, as hard working adults, need to decompress after long work days, kids can also benefit from down time after school. This doesn’t necessarily have to be play time (but it doesn’t have to be screentime either – here are some screen-free ideas for after school). It could be quiet time, curling up with a favorite comic book, or just petting the dog. This helps their brain slow down, switch gears, and re-adjust to a new environment. When they are refreshed, they may respond better to our attempt to connect with them.
Do what your child wants to do.
Within reason of course, ask them if you can join them in their activity of interest. For example, as a boy mom, I don’t totally love the fact that video games are a thing in our house. However, I have come to accept that their generation is different from mine. So when they get time to chill out, I sometimes ask to play their game with them or at least sit next to them, keep them company, and root them on while they play. This shows interest in their interests.
Create a family playlist to listen to after school.
Music is such a motivator in my house. We have a family playlist that we turn on when we are all together at home, in the car, or playing outside. It contains a lot of fun, upbeat dance songs from soundtracks to our favorite movies (like Guardians of the Galaxy, Hotel Transylvania, and Pixels). I love the way my kids’ faces light up when we hear “our” songs on the radio or when we are at the store.
Make plans to do something together for when there is free time.
If there is no time during the school week, talk about making plans for another day. This gives them something to look forward to. It also encourages them to express their interests. It can be motivating and they may work more productively knowing that at the end of the week something special awaits them.
Of course, lifting heavy weights is not safe for little ones so definitely keep the exercise space as safe as possible. A great option for all ages is an exercise app like Seven. When kids see their parents practicing healthy habits, it can help them build a healthy relationship with their bodies and with their parents.
Classic family meal at the table.
Having one meal a day together can be incredibly grounding as a family. Give each child their own place setting at the table. It instills the feeling of belongingness and connection. Try to engage with each person equally, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about what’s on their mind.
Have meaningful conversations.
Instead of asking “how was your day?” here are some alternative ways you can connect in conversation with your kids after school.
What was the best part of your day?
What did you try really hard to do today?
Did you offer to help anyone?
Did you have a hard time with anything today?
What was the worst part of your day?
What did you do today at recess?
Is there someone you want to be friends with?
Did anything make you laugh today?
Were you able to do something you really wanted to do today?
The after school routine can be exhausting for us parents as well. When we get our kids home, we feed them, bathe them, and then send them to bed without much time in between to connect positively. As a Seacoast mom of three, I have found that the trick to a great school-to-home transition is creating a welcoming, positive, and playful atmosphere.