It’s September of 2015 and my oldest daughter just finished her first day of school. I’d been bouncing between nervous energy and anticipation all morning. I couldn’t wait to pick her up from kindergarten and hear all about her first day! After we were reunited and lots of hugs, I started my interrogation. I wanted to know everything!
Did she make any new friends?
Was her teacher nice?
Who did she sit beside?
When is art class?
What book was read at storytime?
Was there a tour of the library?
My barrage of questions was met with a few grunts, but mostly silence. I peeked back at her in the rear-view mirror to find her face buried in a book. I instantly assumed something awful must have happened. We do that as Moms, right? If they’re being quiet, something must be wrong.
After that first week of school, my daughter was mentally and physically exhausted. I learned to wait and give her breathing room after school before asking questions. Although that initial silence was difficult for me, I knew she craved space to process her day. Once she had a snack, read a book quietly or played outside with her sister, she was much more willing to volunteer details about her day.
New Connecting Goal
Reconnecting with our kids once the bell rings can take some purposeful maneuvering. Knowing our own personalities and tendencies can help us connect better. For instance, I’m an extrovert and usually process my thoughts and feelings verbally. My daughter internalizes more and is a quiet processor and thinker. She needs more mental white space before sharing.
Part of loving my daughter well, meant that I needed to curb my questioning. If I wanted to create room to connect with her after a long day, I had to be patient. That self awareness of my own personality helped me notice her unique differences. All kids are different in their needs. Some even change season to season! Finding out what your child needs to unwind helps bridge the gap between school mode and family mode.
Maybe they need a break, so leaping right into homework would cause conflict. Do they need to be alone or around their siblings? Are there ways you can anticipate their mood and create a more peaceful environment? Some days we need to listen to Bach and eat brownies, other days my girls need to run laps around the backyard. Reading their cues and adjusting plans can make all the difference between a smooth or rough evening!
Heading back to school is exhausting for everyone. The new routines and schedule is a lot for grown ups to manage, but our kids are busy adjusting too. Kids don’t always have the skills, awareness or language to tell us how they’re feeling. Let’s be generous with them and remember that connection is the goal.
Now as my oldest gears up for 3rd grade, I know she still needs space after school. I try to curb her little sister’s endless chatter and hold our questions till later. Sometimes, creating this space allows her to open up more than I could have ever hoped for. Some of our best conversations happen in those last ten minutes before bedtime.
When asking questions about school now, I have my daughter clarify something that happened. I’m more interested in checking in emotionally than learning every element of her day. I’ll ask:
- How did it feel when that happened?
- Did that surprise you?
- What could you have done differently?
- What was hard about that?
- How did you show kindness to a friend?
We won’t know every single detail about their days, but that’s part of our kids growing up. They are figuring it out day by day, week by week. Being a soft place to land for them after a tough day, is a priceless gift. Let’s be ready to welcome our children back to the nest with open arms.
Here’s to a school year full of growth, wonder and joy!