[This post is written by parent coach, Jenn, who is a Certified Parent Coach, founder of Your Transformed Family and GPS Partner. She is also training to be a Certified GPS Coach!]
I was so excited to send both my boys back to in-person school but at the same time I knew the transition would have some ups and downs.
Most of our kids have been remote learning for the better part of 18 months but whatever learning mode you have chosen for your child it is likely an adjustment compared to what their summer routine and environment was.
I have 2 boys ages 7 & 9 and they couldn’t be more different from each other, personality wise. My oldest tends to be more quiet, introverted and sensitive whereas my youngest is more boisterous, outgoing and strong-willed. So, their responses to the transition were also pretty different. My youngest became more aggressive and refused to cooperate on things he previously did happily. My oldest withdrew more, wanting time alone but was also more cuddly and wanted that extra snuggle at bedtime.
I’ve spoken about the idea of an emotional backpack before and it is a thing. Do you sometimes think your child’s teacher is speaking about another kid? “Your child is so sweet, polite and cooperative!” You’re thinking, but he’s not like that at home. When kids are in school they are holding it together, and especially with COVID there are so many more “rules” to follow. It is natural that when they come home they have lots of built-up emotional, mental and physical energy. They will release it in ways we may not like but it is because they feel safe to do so.
Helping to ease after-school transition
I used to pick up my boys at school and the first thing I would ask was, “How was your day?” The question is too broad. I would usually get answers like, fine, ok and nothing more. It’s also not giving kids some space to decompress. They don’t want to talk about school as soon as they leave it. They need some time. Get them a snack, maybe do a physical activity. I have 2 boys with lots of energy so they need to exert it. Put yourself in their shoes. I posted earlier this week about how when I used to get home from work I was crabby because my kids would jump all over me. It’s the same for them. They need space and time.
Quiet time is something else we do that I personally love. Find an activity to reconnect as a family, snuggle or read books. In those moments of connection you can ask something like, “what was the best part of your day?”, “who did you play with at recess today?” If you ask a specific question, you are more likely to get an answer and the start of a conversation.
It was at bath time when my youngest and I were alone together after a rough return from school that he said to me, “Mom, I miss you when I’m at school. I don’t want to go.” They are feeling that separation after having been together so often. Though we both need the separation, it is natural to also miss each other. Don’t be dismissive of their feelings. It is important to empathize. You want to make your child feel seen and heard. So instead of, “I miss you too but you have to go to school.” Say something like, “I miss you too when you’re at school. I look forward to spending time together when you get back. Is there something special you want to do with me after school tomorrow?” Empathize and find opportunities to connect. Finding opportunities to be fully present with your child makes such a difference. It might be as simple as them showing you a piece of artwork they come home with, washing veggies together as your prep dinner. Put down your phone and truly listen to your child. They notice.
Establishing or re-establishing routines is also helpful. We have a chart with morning, after school and bedtime routines so they know what is expected of them. This removes a lot of the nagging that can trigger us and result in yelling and feeling like we need to use threats or rewards to get cooperation.
Finally, model stress management. The past few months I have been exhausted. I know that if I exercise, it helps lift my mood and energy level. I let them see me carving out time to exercise and we talk about ways that help us relax and unwind. Listening to music or having a dance party is an easy and fun way to release built up energy from the day.
If you are having a hard time with the transition back to school, let me know if these 4 tips are helpful.
- Model stress management
- Expect a release of emotions after school.
- Allow some time to chill and release energy in positive ways. (playing at the park, jumping on trampoline, running, dance it out).
- Find ways to connect. Small moments when you are fully present (e.g. bathtime, reading stories, car rides)
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Know that you are doing the best that you can, in that moment.
P.S. We will be releasing several webinars in October to help you navigate the different challenges in parenting, so stay tuned! If you would like to get some help before these webinars, one of our coaches would love to meet with you for a free consultation. You can book your free consult here.