“Back to school”. These words can bring up a wide range of emotions for us all. How did the summer fly by so quickly? How is my calendar already this full? Is my child ready to face a new school year?
I’m often asked how parents can best support their child face the many highs and lows of being a kid? While we may not be able to control what happens day to day outside of the home, building a safe and secure relationship with our kiddos is one of the best ways to connect and nurture growing hearts and minds. Fostering a relationship of connection, predictability, and consistency does wonders to help regulate big emotions when inevitably, those big feelings come.
how does one build those relationships?
Ask different questions
Rather than “how was your day today at school,” try asking, “what was the high and low from today?” , “Give me three feelings you had today!”, “What made you laugh today?” or even asking “Do you want to talk about your day?”.
Model Setting Boundaries
Relationships are hard! Kids need help learning how to say no to others, how to ask for help, and how to repair hurt or damaged relationships with peers. Model patterns of healthy relationships with your kids.
Seeing our kids in distress can be just as upsetting for parents! But bite your tongue when you immediately want to fix the problem or give advice. Try first listening and validating their experience. Make eye contact, nod your head, and say something such as “that sounds hard, tell me more”. Remember, validating our kids is NOT the same as agreeing with their thinking-but it opens the door for your kid to be seen and acknowledged.
Life can be so busy and full. Incorporate simple ways to play and laugh together as a family. Try protecting one meal a week for the whole family to eat together, implement a phone free game night, or plan a family movie night where each person gets to choose the movie and snack.
Rituals of Connection
Routines create a sense of safety and security in kids, particularly younger children or our more anxious kids. Nighttime is especially hard. Create rituals around connection-special handshakes, bedtime routines, singing a song together, or having a weekly time schedule for special one on one time together.
While going back to school at times can be overwhelming, busy, and distressing, we can all lean into the moments with our kids to increase love, warmth, and connection when the family is together.