Back to School: Re-Connecting Rituals

playing at the park after school, fall 2010

{This morning I saw mommies and kids walking past our big bay window walking, scooting, riding to the first day back at school at Lake Highlands Elementary. What an exciting time! I was feeling quite relieved to still be in my bath-robe at 7:45, my kids snuggled in my bed playing with my computer, NOT facing that Kindergarten milestone and life change quite yet. My kids and I have another week to hang out before getting back into the routine of school. We really need it, too. Time to hang out and play and be together since we’ve been so busy lately. BUT chances are that someone in YOUR family did go back to school today. So, I wanted to remind you of some very helpful, very important suggestions for that crucial reconnecting time upon pick-up and beyond. This is my post on rituals for “after school” – whether they happen after day care, in car pool, at MDO twice a week, or in the school yard at 3:01 each day. THIS is the time to focus on your child and set the tone for the rest of your day together, and get your school-year off to a great start! Enjoy and pass along…}

So, it’s time to pick up the kids, and you are either refreshed after enjoying a little grown-up time – maybe you got to run some errands ALL BY YOURSELF, listening to the radio on the way, or maybe you took a walk, even phoned a friend. Or maybe you are as hassled and overwhelmed as ever, not having accomplished what you’d hoped to at work, not having gotten the errands done that you’d planned. And now, for better or worse, it’s time to re-enter the stage as “Mommy”, which really means allowing your child to come back to center stage, and you get the supporting role, once again. It means taking a few deep, centering breaths before you walk through the school doors, or as you’re waiting in the carpool line, so you can get back into the part. It means letting go (for the moment) of your to-do list and frustrations, so that you can focus on your child. You never know what wonderful or difficult experiences they have had during your time apart, experiences that have shaped their current emotional state. Your emotional state has to be secondary so that you can be ready to receive and respond to them “just as they are” – maybe exhausted and fussy, maybe frustrated and stressed, maybe joyful and joking, maybe disappointed or sad. Here are some ideas for making those first few moments re-uniting with your child meaningful:

  • Do your eyes light up? The author Toni Morrison talks about how that is our number one job as a parent – to facially demonstrate our love and delight upon seeing our children after separation, or when they wake up in the morning, etc. Our kids have been experts at reading our faces since they were babies –  Just think of how something so simple can make such a difference in a child’s developing sense of self and worth. Add the words, “I’m so happy to see you!”
  • Do you re-connect physically? Take the time to bend down for a hug and kiss. Here’s a little “welcome back” ritual that I use with my kids and in my classes when the parents re-join us for sharing time. Let your child choose where they want their kiss…”You’ve been gone and you’ve been missed. Where would you like your welcome-back kiss?”
  • Re-connect in the car. Ask some specific questions like: “What was your favorite thing you did on the playground today?” ,”Who did you sit next to at snack time?” , “What was your favorite toy you played with in class today?” , “What books did you read today?”, “Did you get a chance to help a friend today?” Know your child’s schedule so you can ask about music, art, and other activities. Reach back and grab their foot, “Oh, I’m so glad you remembered to bring your foot home from school – I love this foot!” Say, “I got a special song ready to play just for you!” and play a song like “Skinnamarink” or “You are my Sunshine” to welcome them back in the car. Tell them, “I thought about you this morning at 10:25 and wished you well! I was thinking about you running and playing on the playground with your friends.”
  • Play Together Outside. If you’re lucky, your child’s school has a park or playground across the way, or one on the way home. In the fall and spring, I find this is a great time to sit on a bench and enjoy a snack and a chat together, or feed the ducks, play chase, marvel at their climbing and sliding skills, or use the swings. Do use it as a time to connect, and not just chat on the cell phone or with other mommies. Time outside in nature is good for the spirit, and will put you both in a good mood before you head home.
  • Re-connect at home. Some ritual ideas…In our family we like “Story, snack, and snuggle” on the couch. So much better than going straight to the TV. Or consider some “floor time” play. In the morning, let them set aside a toy or activity that they want to share with you “after school”, and they can look forward to that all day. Or on your way home, you let them know that you set out a surprise activity for you all to “play” together – give them a few clues, and make it a game.
  • Allow some “Listening” time… Your child might open up with you about school as you are playing with blocks on the floor together, as you are quietly coloring together at the kitchen table, but you have to allow some slow, quiet moments to give them “talking” space. It might not happen until you are winding down for the day, tucking them into bed, but let them know when you are available for “listening”, and tell them how much you love for them to talk with you about their day! Make it a ritual that will grow with your child, and keep you close for years to come!
Let me know: what are your favorite re-connecting rituals?

Comments

  1. Tamara says:

    Thank you for the great reminders!

  2. Sommer says:

    Thank you – much needed reminders. I find that in reading your blogs, I find myself reflecting more and really trying to ‘be here now’ with my kids/family.

    • Oh, Sommer, thanks for the input! That’s wonderful. I appreciate you reading my posts. It truly inspires me to keep it up! It’s impossible to always be truly present with our kids, but I always enjoy parenting a lot more when I let all the external lists and pressures go, and focus on them %100. I know they enjoy me a lot more, too, when I do that.