What can you do that will make a difference, and make it a smoother experience for you and your child? What matters most? In a back-to-school episode on our podcast, we discussed three important things to focus on with your child through the unpredictable year ahead: relationships, routines, and rituals.
Modeling Behavior and Fostering Relationships
Your child learns from everything you do — the way you act and respond teaches your child how to handle different situations. Today, this is especially important, since your child probably spends more time around you during the day than they used to. Modeling is key — they’ll notice how you manage emotions and how you respond to these changing times.
Demonstrate how to roll with the punches! You may need to think this through first — and even practice — because you’ll want to be aware of the facial expressions you’re making, your tone of voice, and other ways you’re communicating as you navigate uncertainty. Be sure to keep this in mind, too, as you take calls in earshot of your kids while you’re working from home.
Fostering a safe, reliable, and consistent relationship with your child is the critical foundation that everything else rests on.
Creating and Sticking with Routines
Whether you had a good routine going before school went virtual or not, now’s the time to implement a schedule for school that meets what you need, whether you are virtual or hybrid. Routines serve as your child’s clock and calendar, and knowing what comes next can help relieve stress.
For younger children, this might mean a visual schedule with pictures that represent reading, snack, outdoor time, and other activities. For older children, it might be a list of words — breakfast, reading, math, lunch, and so on.
Keep in mind that routines should be consistent, but they should also be flexible. For example, a rainstorm might mean outdoor time happens in the morning instead of the afternoon. Or, an impromptu meeting could move your lunch out, but remember: you can help your child adapt to each particular day by controlling your own reactions to change.
Making Time for Rituals and Connection
Create daily rituals your child can count on — you can make even simple ones more meaningful. For example, eating is something you already have to do, so why not do it together? Break for lunch and eat with your child. Throughout the morning, you might hear, “Can I show you something?” or “Guess what?” But with the lunchtime ritual looming, you’ll be able to say, “I can’t talk right now, but I can’t wait to hear about it when we eat lunch together!”
Ep. 20: A Parenting Mindset for Back-to-School
As you and your child continue to navigate the unusual academic year, take comfort remembering that there’s no set plan for parenting, during a pandemic or otherwise, but there are things you can do to make it a bit easier on everyone.