As parents, we often look forward to those precious few hours after school when we get to hang out with our kids. Then they get home and it can all fall apart! The big feelings, the hanger, the push-back on you… It isn’t that your children want to make your life miserable. It’s that they have been holding a lot together throughout the day and YOU are the safe place to discharge this energy and these emotions.
There are some things we can do to ease this transition and help after-school hours be more fun and connected. Check out these 3 simple tips!
1. Bring a snack in the car— often children are hungry from their school day. Waiting until they get home (where they feel safe to unwind) can result in a meltdown as soon as they walk in the door. Fueling them on the way home helps them have the sustenance to support their nervous system from adding “hangry” to the mix of after-school emotions
2. Plan for your play time— often we are rushing kids from one activity to the next. Have at least a couple days a week that are unstructured after school. Carve out 20-30 minutes in your afternoon plans to sink in and play with them. Get on the floor, turn off phones and really connect.
3. Ask more specific questions— “how was your day” pretty much always leads to the same answer: “Fine.” If we ask “What did you do today?” we get back the famous, “Nothing.”
When you check in with kids, use it as an opportunity to really learn more about them by asking more specific questions. What made you laugh today? What was your favorite thing in your lunch? Did anything happen today that you didn’t enjoy? Did you notice anyone do something kind for you today? Get creative and know that sometimes kids also just need some space and downtime to process their day. After some play (tip #2) they might be more open.
These may seem simple but that’s the beauty of it! After school time can indeed be that precious, fun time that you’ve looked forward to when you and your children get to connect and enjoy each other.