Your kids are your eyes and ears to the world; they see and experience things each moment. Some of these things bounce off of them and they keep moving. Some things they see or experience affect them – positively or negatively. Now that they are back to school, they need your help to interpret, understand and process what happens to them. Tune in. They need your help.
I know tuning in to kids is like trying to get their attention when they are on their devices – almost impossible. You have a busy life, job, relationships, bills, challenges, pressures – so, how fair is it that you have to make the extra effort to tune in to a kid that may be doing their best to get you not to tune in. It isn’t fair – so let’s just get past that. But it is a true and important responsibility of parenting.
See, the greatest role we have as parents is to help our kids learn how to understand and make sense of their world. In this, we help them discover their uniqueness – their talents, strengths, passions and interest (we help them find the things they rock at and the things they stink at). We help them learn to build their work and lives around what they do and love best – to be happy, successful and responsible in life. We are their guides, translators, coaches and mentors. Sometimes they appreciate us, sometimes not. Regardless, we do it to get them ready for life.
So as school starts up again everywhere, make a commitment to be extra tuned in to your kids. School can be very stressful – so many new things coming at them. Somethings they will figure out – other things they will need your help to interpret and understand. Consider these three ways to stay more in touch with your kids as they encounter a new school year.
- Commit to have dinner together. Your kids have to eat regardless of the amount of homework they have. Build a habit of eating together and using the time to share thoughts of what they have encountered in their day. Not only will it give them time to share, but it will create a place and time each day where they will feel heard.
- Commit to asking more and telling less. “Get your homework done” could shift to “How are you doing on your homework?” Telling brings out the defensive side in our kids; asking creates the opportunity for your kids to share their thoughts about homework… and school… and experiences… and other things in their world that they may want to share with you. Remind yourself to change your statements into questions. You kids won’t respond if you don’t ask.
- Commit to sending a supportive text, email or facetime call during their day. Remind yourself that your kids need your daily support and encouragement. Put a note in their lunches. Give them a power quote to start off their day. Show them that you are tuned in and paying attention to them. This creates the rapport and relationship that will help them share their thoughts, questions and challenges when they have them.
Anytime your kids’ worlds change, be prepared to tune in more. Watch more. Ask more. Be more present. Gather more information. Then, using what you find out, show up more loving, kind and supportive. Remember they are a work-in-process; they need your help to figure things out. Tune in to meet them where they are – guide them (don’t do their work for them) as they start to make sense of the experiences the world and their school shares with them.