After six weeks of summer vacation, I find myself going back to our school time routine. However, as I reflected on last year’s first week of school experiences, I realized that it was so easy to let the new school year go by. Last year, we were all preoccupied on my treatments. The focus was set primarily on me getting through radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
This year I intend to make things different. I would like to make the most of the after school period to reconnect with our children and to have a bigger picture of their day. Part of intentional parenting is to create routines that will help your relationship with your child. It is my core desire to be present to my kids and finding an after school routine that would work for us was my goal.
In reading about reconnecting with children after school, I read about the idea presented by Child Psychologist Claire Halsey wherein she says that it takes only 12 minutes to reconnect with your child after school. In a pamphlet made my Ribena Plus they presented the “12 Minute Manual: A month’s worth of ideas for fun things to do after school with your kids in only 12 minutes” wherein it stressed the judgments that we parents have on our parenting skills. 42% of parents in their survey admitted to “not being good enough parents” while other figures are about parents’ struggles with switching off from work mode at home (37%) and how almost half of the parents worry about chores while they are reconnecting with their kids (45 %).
Most of the ideas presented in the pamphlet involve using open-ended questions to get to know more about your child’s day. Questions like, “Tell me about the best game you played today? (3-4 year olds),”Can you act out what you did at breaktime?”(4-8 years old), “I've got a great story for you but I want one in return... you first!”( 8-14 years old).
These questions are actually similar to the ones that I ask my kids when we see each other after school. Five ways that I am now incorporating in our after school reconnection period are:
1) A HUG - Physical contact is still one of the best ways to reconnect. Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting (affiliate) emphasizes on the importance of 12 hugs a day. Putting in this physical reconnection is not just beneficial for children but to us parents as well. Hugging has been studied to provide health benefits specifically in lowering stress. As neurologist Shekar Raman, MD, said
"A hug, pat on the back, and even a friendly handshake are processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, which is why they can have a powerful impact on the human psyche, making us feel happiness and joy… And it doesn't matter if you're the toucher or touchee. The more you connect with others -- on even the smallest physical level -- the happier you'll be."
2) A SNACK – One of the things I noticed with my kids is how hungry they are after school. When they are in this state, it is difficult to reconnect with them. So I use our snack time as opportunity to listen, ask or just be present next to them. Jen Walshaw from Mum in the Madhouse wrote a list of Healthy After School Snacks to give to children.
3) A BOOK – In our household, I read the English books to my children while my husband read the Dutch ones. Reading a book is our settling down time where both snuggle next to me and listen to the Astrosaur academy (affiliate) books that we have. While reading I sometimes connect what is happening to the characters with things I would like to know about their day. Usually it flows from the question on feelings ( “why did the character feel that way?” “did you also feel like this today?”) and actions (“oh look they like spending time together, how about you, who did you spend time with today?”).
4) A GAME – Kids love to get me involved in their play. Having a “no technology policy from Mondays to Thursdays”, both of them take on different activities to entertain them. What I am now adding to our routine is a quick board game that we all can play together. Once on the table and gathered around, I can then ask open-ended questions on how their day unfolded. It can be questions like “who did you spend most of your time with?” “who did you work with today?” “what game did you play indoors/outdoors?” “what part of the day did you like the most and why?” "what made you happy (change to different feelings) today?".
5) A CREATIVE ACTIVITY – Coloring and drawing are staple activities in our household. Kids have access to materials that they can use for creative activities. Eventhough there is a proliferation of coloring pages for kids, I do have my preference when it comes to drawing and art activities. Either we do collaborative artworks or I encourage them to do Zentangles. I introduced the Zentangle method to my kids and we use it not just for artistic development but also as a mindfulness tool. Personally, I use this a centering tool and with children it is a means to help them get through a sense of flow. You can check out Zentangles with a 5 year Old from What We Do All Day to give you inspiration on how to start zentangles with your kids or you can grab a copy of Zentangles for Kidz by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (affiliate).
Being intentional as a parent for me means I choose how I build on my relationship with those that I love in the daily activities that we share. It might be for just 12 minutes a day like what Halsey mentioned as the "magic number when it comes to reconnecting" or it can be longer. What matters for me is to put it as a part of our family culture - a routine to get us on the right track on reconnecting after the kids get back from school.
How about you what other routines that you can add? Share your thoughts in the comments or join us in the discussion in the Smart Tinker Parents Network in facebook (access is by invitation so please email me if you want to be included)