In case you don't know, school goes back next week. Thoughts about this in my house tend to range from “I’m organised, my holiday homework is done, I just need to sort my pencil case out” to “how am I going to catch the bus when I’m not up until after 12?” My youngest was happy about going to school last week and this week he is concerned about not having close friends in his class.
And me, I’m not really looking forward to the running around this will bring. It’s been lovely these last few weeks to have everyone settled and cocooned at home. Minimal demands on time has brought with it an increased calm and family connection. The other night I even heard my older two have a conversation, with each other, together, that didn’t end in yelling…..
The challenge is how to build on this calm when life returns to what can be a treadmill of stress and expectation. The following are five things to consider.
1. Think about your family scheduling. Are you and your children doing too much? Allow for down time where everyone can stop and just do what they feel like..
2. Make family meals a priority. In our home it is really the only time when everyone (who is home) sits together and has a chance to talk or listen, to touch base with each other. We even turn off the television!
It doesn’t happen all the time. Quite frankly there are times when I don’t want to sit and talk to anyone, but because of the expectation it is sometimes the kids who say mum come and sit at the table.
I would also love to say that our gatherings are based around a wonderful home cooked meal…but with my cooking skills the food is generally secondary to just making the effort of sitting around the table together.
3. Pick an interest to share with each child. It doesn’t matter whether it’s football or watching their favourite show together. My children get quite cross with me when I watch one of their shows without them. What matters is that your interest is genuine. This may take some trial and effort on your behalf and if you are having trouble finding a shared interests – try something new together. It’s great for your children to see you having a go at something different.
4. Spend individual time with each child, whether that be picking them up for school, taking them for a drive, staying up to watch their favourite show, reading their secondary school novels, or doing the dishes together. Whatever way this fits in with your life.
5. Keep trying. Your teenager will want to eat in their rooms, at the computer, in front of the tv. Reminders to sit at the table, to not bolt their food and run off may have to happen. They will not want to talk to you about their interests, there will be days and weeks that are super busy, none of us lead perfect lives. But, persevere, it’s worth it.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.