Prioritize downtime. Kids need time to play, hang out, read or create on their own terms. Unstructured time is the first thing to go when families get busy, and that can have big repercussions for kids.
After school routines should include plenty of time for kids to unwind and engage in free play.
Be present. We worry about the impact of screen time on the developing brain, but we forget that our own screen time use can negatively impact our relationship with our kids. If your child senses a disconnect, he will retreat. It’s important for us to disconnect from our phone and other screens when our kids come home from school.
The best way to reconnect with our kids is to be present when they are in our presence. Make eye contact. Listen with intent. Let your child speak without attempting to fix any identified problems. Often, children need someone to listen while they work through their feelings and problem-solve out loud.
Play together. I often recommend playing a board game or a simple card game with children right after school. Spending time playing quietly together or reading together helps ease kids out of the overwhelming feelings that the end of the day brings and into a calmer state of mind.
Snack it up. Get ahead of the hunger crash by planning the after school snacks in advance. Many children come home starving and dehydrated, even if they communicate otherwise. This is not the time to try new foods, however. Put out snacks they enjoy with tall glasses of water and sit with them while they refuel.
Create a homework routine. Prevent homework wars by setting up a clutter-free spot to work and trying to do the homework at the same time each day. Set a timer and allow for plenty of breaks. If your child is struggling, write a note to the teacher and close the books for the day.
Kids are under increased pressure today. They are learning academics earlier and earlier. They also don’t have enough time to release energy. It’s no surprise our kids return home in a compromised state. It’s important for us to let our kids get back to the business of being a kid to help decrease stress and improve their emotional well–being.