CONNECTING BEFORE SCHOOL
What are your rituals for getting the kids to school or childcare? Is it all chaos and confusion? Yelling and pleading? We’ve ALL been there, and the challenges change with every stage and every child. But somehow those with us with kids tend to be worn out by 9:01, or whatever your “drop-off” time might be. As a teacher, I do a pretty good job hiding it on my face, but some parents at my pre-school last year witnessed some pretty big Ellie tantrums on the bench right outside the entrance!
One key phrase to remember for the morning rush: “Connect before you direct.” (I have this posted on my fridge.) It takes a tiny bit more time and effort, but it pays off with more likelihood that your child will willingly cooperate. Actually, the idea behind using these techniques and rhymes is to connect even while you direct. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!?
I want to pass along these suggestions (and remind myself of them) as we are all getting back into our busy morning routines. This September, I invite you to reflect on making some meaningful (even if brief) connections as part of your routine for the health of your child’s heart, brain, and family bond and for your joy!
Believe me, I know it doesn’t always work…but it’s worth a try, because nothing feels worse as a Mommy trying to be productive after having to fight with your kid to get them to school, or leaving them in tears in the classroom. Or driving away from carpool in tears because you feel bad about yourself as a parent (been there). It just zaps all the cheer, motivation, and energy from you, and can have a similar effect on your child for the day.
So, let’s think POSITIVE! Force yourself to put some love and positive energy out into the universe of your child and family in the morning (maybe after a cup of coffee), and focus on what you want. The method of choice? Music and play, of course! (I am a music teacher after all.) And I strongly believe that music and play are the two most natural “languages” for children, and make the strongest brain and family connections.
Here is a rhyme I like to chant as we are heading out the door or on the way. You can change “back to school” to “time for school”. It’s a great way to remind your child that all you expect of them is that they do their very best. They don’t have to get perfect grades or do things like everybody else – just do their best. Let that be your family standard. For young children, I also like that it focuses on the fun (songs and games) because we know that children always learn best through PLAY. And I love being able to express excitement about “learning new things every day” because that is what school and life is all about. It’s not about the grades, not about the results, it’s about the knowledge. It’s about the process, not the product.
Back to school, back to school, Do your best, and that’s the rule.
Songs to sing, games to play, learning new things every day.
I’m so proud of ____________!
Consider a few more possibilities for connecting. Can you squeeze any of these in for 5 minutes at home in the morning?
- Morning Snuggle and song
- Face Time at breakfast, breakfast blessing
- Morning Play, Story-time
- Team spirit for “Out the door, in the car, Let’s Go TEAM!” (I like to do a “high five” on this last part once we’ve made it into the car successfully, or as we make it through the door.)
- Family “breath”. Once you’ve made it into the car together, just take a collective breath after the morning rush to center yourselves for the day. Say a prayer, or just spend a moment of silence together. “Phew! What a crazy morning. We made it to the car! Let’s all take a deep breath together, and get ready for a great day....”
- Here’s a little song I sing as the kids are getting their shoes on… I started singing this Becky Bailey song when MJ was a tot, and it’s a good one for signing “shoes” (make 2 fists and tap them together in front of you, side to side) and “helpful” (raise a fist with a thumbs up from the outstretched palm of the other hand). Change the words to fit what it is your child needs to “put on” or do…The idea is to LABEL the good ways you want your child to cooperate before she has the chance not to.
Mama’s smart girl is precious, precious, mama’s smart girl is loved so much.
Mama’s smart girl will go to school, mama’s smart girl will ride the Mommy bus.
Put on your socks, put on your shoes, Goin’ to school is wonderful news!
Put on your shirt, put on your pants, _____ is doing the helpful dance!
What about once you’re on your way to school? The kids are being held captive, buckled in and they can’t get away – this is the perfect time to connect, gosh darn it, whether they like it or not!!! Well, you can be a little more easy-going about it, but maybe “turn off and tune in.” That is, go “unplugged” to school as far as earbuds in teenage ears, no cell phone calls or play, no DVD in the backseat. Just time to BE together. Time to communicate the 2 most important messages that you can with your child: “I’m here” and “I love you.” Really, every interaction is an opportunity for that – YIKES!
Try some of these ideas for Connecting in the Car:
- Morning Medley – pick some upbeat songs to sing together, or sing-along with a a couple favorites on the stereo (“You Are My Sunshine”, “This is the Day”, “You’re never Fully Dressed without a Smile”, “Put on a Happy Face”,
- Ask questions….What are you excited about doing in PE today? Who are you looking forward to playing with today? Is there anything you are worried about going on at school today? Etc…
- Long drive? Share a bond through a book on tape together…we love “The Magic Tree House” series read by the author Mary Pope Osborne. It will give you something to look forward to sharing together in the mornings!
- Notice your surroundings, the landmarks, the streets, etc.
- Play a game – “I spy”, finding the ABC’s on license plates and billboards, practice reading the road signs, 20 questions, rhyming games, opposites, math “word” problems, etc.
- Wish people well – When you’re on your way to your own morning activities, it’s a great time to practice drawing your attention outside of yourself and your own little world by thinking of other people. Is there anyone you know this morning who could use an extra prayer or some positive thoughts sent their way? Talk about this together.
You’ve made it to your destination, and now it’s time for one last moment of connection before the day at school begins...Make it a love-filled one! You never know what challenges your child might face before you see them again….reassure them and encourage them, fill up they their “I am loved” tank with kind words and a healthy dose of Drop-Off Rituals:
- Sing a favorite Song. I have a friend who holds her 2 tot twins in her arms before Mother’s Day Out and sings “Jesus Loves Me” before they walk through the door – so sweet!
- “Circle of Love”. A pastor friend of mine shared this ritual that used for her own boys as they were growing up, and has given me several “circles of love” in my own life – before college and when she married me and Dustin. She just physically drew a big circle in the air around the person’s head like a blessing of protection…before a math test, before going to college, before facing an important first, etc.
- The Kissing Hand We love this sweet ritual from the children’s book by Audrey Penn with Chester the Raccoon. And the sweetest part is when your child gives you a kissing hand in return, so when you are missing them, all you have to do is put that hand to your cheek, and the kiss warms your heart and reminds you “MJ loves me, MJ loves me!“
- Phrase: “Mommy always comes back.”, A friend of mine finds that reassuring her little one of this eases the drop-off routine. It’s simple, but SO important. There is even a song with those words in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: “Grown-Ups Come Back”
- Use a phrase from a favorite book. I love the one that is used for Jack and Annie in The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne: “Be wise. Be brave. Be careful.”
- Here’s another I like to use with Ellie, kissing her on each cheek. “I love you once, I love you twice, I love you more than beans and rice!”
- Give a Blessing – I just wrote these to start using this year with my own kiddos, and they are enjoying them so far!
“God Bless you and your work today,
While you learn and while you play.
Remember, you’re my special guy,
I love you more than apple pie!”
“God bless you and your work today,
while you learn and while you play.
You’re my girl, and I love you.
Mommy/ Daddy is SO proud of YOU!”
(or….”more than peanut butter stew!”)
Here is the blessing I wrote and will use with the children in chapel and music:
“God Bless you and your work today,
While you learn and while you play.
Be God’s helper, kind and true,
Remember how much God loves you!”