If you have a child in school or daycare, I’m sure you’re eager to find out how your little love has spent their day. Although it can be so tempting to jump in with questions as soon as you see your child – What did you do? Did you have fun? – it can be less frustrating all round to give them time and space to unwind first.
Whatever their age, your child may well be feeling tired and in need of a snack and some quiet time to play, read, rest, or get some fresh air before they feel ready to talk about their day. Taking a few moments for a special snack when they get home with a lit candle, a read-aloud or some relaxing music, a hot chocolate (our favourite is oat milk blended with a spoon of nut butter, cacao, honey, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract) and a slice of toast or a crumpet, can give children the time to relax, refuel, and reconnect with you.
When you do ask about your child’s day, rather than asking “What did you do today?” you can ask specific questions:
- Did you do anything extra silly or fun today?
- Did anyone make you laugh today?
- What was the most interesting thing you did today?
- What was the most boring thing you had to do today?
- Who did you play with during break?
- Did anything make you feel happy today? Did anything make you feel sad today?
- Was there anything tasty to eat at lunchtime?
- How did the football game go?
All of these are much more likely to lead to a meaningful conversation with your child than a general question which may be ignored or met with a “fine”.
Making time for connection
Making a habit of communication can help enormously when it comes to reconnecting with your child. Taking the time to be available (and truly present) for each of your children for some time each day – time when you are not too busy to talk, when they can come to you with anything that’s on their mind – can make a huge difference to your connection. It’s never too early to build that habit.
This space for connection will look different at different ages. With a young child it may mean getting down on the floor and playing, sharing a bath, or chatting as you paint together. With older children and teenagers it could be cooking together, taking a walk, sharing a cup of tea, or snuggling up to watch a film together.
Building in a regular period of time each day when you are available to talk means that when your children need you, they know you are there and that you will listen. As well as time spent one on one, building rhythms around daily meals together where the whole family can come together, talk, and share, models and teaches strong communication and sharing.
If your child shares a problem
If your child mentions a problem or worry, it can be so tempting to dive in with a suggestion or solution. But keeping that impulse in check, holding space for them to share, and gently empathising (“I can see that felt really hurtful”) and asking open questions (“So, what do you think you could do if that happens again?”) helps your child to build confidence around figuring out their own solutions to their problems and builds resilience. You can also ask them if they would like your support or guidance, being open to them saying no.
It is helpful to keep your own emotional response in check, even though it can be painful to hear about children being teased or treated unfairly. Over-empathising (“Jane called me smelly today.” “Oh, that was SO mean of Jane, what a horrible thing to do!”) can actually get in the way of our children developing their own emotional literacy, and can place the burden of our own emotions on them to deal with as well as their own.
I always recommend the brilliant books How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen (perfect for ages two through seven) and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen (great for ages five onwards) to my clients. They come with loads of practical examples and are a must for any parent’s bookshelves (from the same series is also a great book on navigating sibling relationships called Siblings Without Rivalry).
Supporting your child through storytelling
If your child is going through a tricky period at daycare or school, storytelling can be a powerful way of supporting them through their emotions. Sharing with your child a time when you struggled with a situation can be really powerful when they are facing a change or worried about something, as you can empathise by telling them how you felt, and gently give guidance and support by telling them how you overcame or moved past your problem. You can find more tips and resources on storytelling with children here.
How does your child usually feel when they get home from daycare or school? Are they excited to chat about their day or do they need more time to unwind?
PS. There are still some spaces left if you want to book onto A Beautiful Childhood. The course is for you if you have young children and want to be inspired by a range of beautiful education and parenting philosophies. Whether you work full time or are at home all week, whether your children are in school or you are home educating, there will be a lot of simple ideas for you to take away from the course to implement at home to help you make the most of the time you have together. You can read what other parents had to say about the course here.