Well…have you settled into the school year with your kiddos? I don’t know about you, but I had this mix of relief and anxiety. Let me tell you a funny conversation I had with my kids when they BOTH headed out to school this week.
Me: Have a great first day (after lots of ridiculous first-day pictures, sans masks).
Jack: Mom, what are you going to do without us?
Me: I’m sure I’ll manage…and I’ll miss you (Also me: happy dance as they drove off).
Here’s the thing. On one hand, I’ve loved having my kids at home. Never in the recent history of raising teenagers have we had the opportunity to have so much time with them. On the other hand, I am NOT a teacher and, it turns out, I’m pretty horrible at it. For the most part, we have managed with the help of a huge village to support all of us. AND, it’s been really hard on them – socially, emotionally, and academically.
And yet, even after 18 months at home and way too many days of distance learning, saying goodbye was hard. I realized as I dropped off my freshman for his first day of in-person high school that this might be the last opportunity. Because his sister drives (and soon he will drive) I’ll have to be intentional about creating those moments. And watching my daughter drive them both to school on day 2 was heart-wrenching. My two loves driving away – confident yet anxious; excited yet conservative. And let me tell you – dropping off a 3-year-old, 10-year-old, or 14-year-old is ALL hard! You’re leaving a little part of your heart at school.
So, I want to focus on the return. There’s so much research on the importance of being there for our kids when they return to us, in any capacity. So, whether you’re picking them up, they’re driving home, you’re meeting at a bus stop, or arriving at after-care – those first interactions are precious and important. They set the stage for the rest of the afternoon/evening. While we can’t prevent the need to say goodbye, we can decide how the return will look. Here are a few ideas:
- Be present. Put down your phone, laptop, etc., and be available to check-in.
- Ask open-ended questions. “What was an interesting part of your day?” will get more responses than “How was school?”
- Be curious. “Tell me about your music teacher. What seemed hard? What kind of music will you study?”
- Be excited about their learning. “Wow, that seems cool! I’ve never taken a class like that before.” Or “How did you make that? Draw that? Build that?”
- Let them know you’re happy they’re home. “I’m so glad you’re here. I missed you today.” Or, “I can’t wait to hear more.”
- Feed them and water them. Like plants and animals, they need tending to and often kids forget to eat and drink enough during the day.
- Talk about homework later. I promise there will be plenty of time to talk about homework as the night wanes on, but allow the first moments to simply connect.
So, while goodbyes never get easier, we can get better at welcoming our kids back into us – back into relationship a with you.