This article is provided by Lucy Daniels Center staff
Weekday mornings for families are often action-packed. From the time you wake up until you drop your children off at school, you are juggling getting ready and dressing children, making breakfast, preparing snacks and lunches, and making sure everyone has everything they need before you head out the door. In the midst of all of this, emails, texts, or phone calls from professional obligations may already be taking yet another sliver of your attention. How can you make the most of this and other busy times of day with your children?
Being mobile and connected at all times has its perks, but it also makes escaping calls and emails from work or other responsibilities all the more challenging. The instantaneous nature of today’s communication technology has expanded working hours beyond the usual 40 hour work week and replies are expected soon after messages have been sent. Parents are often multitasking, simultaneously engaging in personal and professional relationships. As you settle into your new routine this fall, consider setting aside specific times of day when you disconnect from the mobile world to focus solely on fostering important connections with your children.
Morning commute and drop-off time
The beginning of the school year is filled with mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension as your child embarks on adventures with new teachers and classmates. You can help your child prepare for his school day by thinking and talking together about what he or she expects or hopes for. Children are not always comfortable bringing these topics up on their own, and if the morning is especially rushed or if you are less available, many thoughts and worries are simply kept quiet. If the morning routine before leaving the house does not lend itself to such leisurely conversations (understandably!), the car ride or walk to school can be the perfect time for emotionally supportive talks. The morning commute can become a precious time of connection that will help your child feel understood and supported before saying goodbye for the day. Simple conversations starters can be, “Who do you hope to play with today?” or “Is there something you’d like to do in school today?” Starting such conversations can lead to other school-related topics that may be on your child’s mind.
Reunions after school
The reunion after school, whether right after school or after a parent has finished their workday, is an especially important time of day for young children. In fact, the first few minutes with you after school may be one of the most significant moments of your child’s day! For you, it may be just another busy afternoon, but for your child, it is the first time she is seeing you after a school day likely filled with ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, and interesting or perplexing experiences. Put your phone away for these few minutes and give your child your full attention. Questions such as “What was your favorite part of your school day?” and “What was the hardest part about your day?” will provide your child with opportunities to seek your help and understanding or simply share important parts of his or her day with you.
If you are not the person dropping off or picking up from school, your first contact with your child is still a most important period of time. You can also carve out other special times of day for these valuable conversations. Dinnertime, evening time, or bedtime can serve the same function of providing your child with your undivided attention, free from the distractions of mobile devices. If you are aware of specific worries, talk about them. Children, like adults, think about the things that worry them, even when they do not initiate these conversations on their own. By setting aside specific times of day to talk with your child in a focused and connected way, you will learn more about his feelings about different experiences, enabling you to provide more attuned, meaningful, and lasting support.
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