Post by M.J. of Pars Caeli
The store shelves are stocked with folders and notebooks, and the camps and vacations are coming to a close. We’re all soaking up the last nuggets of summer before the school schedules, activities, and homework begin again! Every year the relaxing family time seems to go faster and faster, and I will miss the sweet moments, connecting with my three kids, learning more about the incredible people they’re becoming.
But the quality time together doesn’t have to be limited to summer fun, we can make it last throughout the year, too, with a little extra planning and patience. We try these nine easy ways to connect with your kids during the school year. See what think of these playful and practical suggestions:
1. Spend time together before school – I am not a morning person so getting out of bed to be cheerful and/or excited for a new day is not my strength. However, I love having small moments with my children every morning. Some days that’s an extra snuggle and chat before changing out of PJs or lip syncing a Taylor Swift tune to bring on some giggles.
If you’re off to work before the kids, consider leaving them a note to read at breakfast or the comics to bring a smile. Days are so much better when they start off on the right foot (for us all)!
2. Send a little home with them to school – Since full-day kindergarten began for our family, five years ago, we’ve been sending lunchbox notes with our children. After hearing from my daughter about quiet lunch times and wanting to have something to chat about with friends, I decided to add a joke and doodle to these notes. Teachers and lunch helpers would read them to the kids as they were learning to read, and everyone got a kick out the silly pictures and corny jokes.
I started sharing these notes on Instagram and hearing from other moms and teachers who would reuse them with their kids! I loved the idea that I could help other parents connect (in the middle of the day or on a long drive or in a doctor’s office) with their children.
The seeds of Lunchtime LOL Notes were born! I’m so delighted to partner with the Land of Nod to bring these jokes to life in a pack of 180 (the whole school year!). I wanted to make it easy for parents to send their love so one side is blank for your message with the other side bringing the silly along! And now you can… so go grab your family a pack.
3. Coach, lead, assist – Not all of us can fit it in, but if you can, I’ve heard it from the mouths of my own babes, coaching your kids can be a great way to connect with them. In coaching or leading an activity, or volunteering in the classroom, you establish a new context for your relationship as a parent and not only get to see your child in a new light, but also get to know their friends, too. . . which leads me to #4
4. Get to know their friends – Where you can, be the parent who drives the carpool, goes on the field trip, watches the games. Get to know your children’s friends. The older your kids get, the more insight this will provide into who they are becoming! It also lets your children know that you’re really interested in their lives, even the nitty gritty details. This comes in very handy when you hear the stories come home and know who’s who to ask your children the right questions.
5. Be goofy – There’s a time for antics and a time for. . . yada, yada, yada. We all know that adults and parents need to be mature. The work conference call, the brilliant tweet, the email – sometimes they have to wait. Make sure to spend some all-out-silly time with your kids, too!! Whether it’s dance parties, wrestling, or silly string fights, let them see that you’re still a kid, and that you can laugh until you snort, too!
6. Listen (and fall in love with) their music – For those of us who live and die by our favorite tunes, this can be a challenge. However, sometimes it’s the nonverbal communications that can speak the loudest. We spend a decent amount of time in transit, in the car, listening to music. Sing your heart out to their favorite tune (even if the words make no sense) and drum along to the weird beat. Showing a love and an embrace for what they love, let’s them know you’re trying.
7. Talk over the day – How was your day? Answering this question goes really well with some children and not so well with others! In our house, it completely depends on the day who wants to share happy/good/sad/surprising news. Some days there’s silence. But I do want there still to be a space (usually over dinner) where we all talk about the latest. Sometimes I have to talk about my weird day at work to prime the pump, and sometimes I’m inspired by their insights and observations. Ultimately, I want them to know that we’re interested and listening – always.
8. Read what they’re reading – Enjoying books with my children has been a total unexpected highlight of motherhood! We read together at bedtime with our youngest, exploring our favorite picture and chapter books. But we’ve also started a kids bookclub with our 8 and 10 year olds to read along with our children and their friends – some long-time favorites like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and new ones like Wonder. It has elevated our conversations and broadened our understandings of one another. Reading together has also been truly beneficial to their reading confidence and interest.
9. Go on dates together – We are a mix of introverts and extroverts in our house, and, at times, it can be hard to get everyone engaged as a full group of five. My husband and I make it a priority to go on “dates” with each of our kids. They used to get jealous when we’d leave on a date together. Why don’t we get to have a special time with you? Well, now they do. Often these take the simple form of a trip to the bookstore or library or playground. Other times the dates can be a special shopping trip or dinner out. Bonus: my children have a new level of understanding of Mommy and Daddy needing one-on-one time together, too!
Here’s hoping we get a few more weeks of summer to squeeze in all the fun we can. And once school begins again, we’ll be ready to dig into some other ways to stay connected with our kids, too. How do you do it? How do you stay close when schedules leave you spending so much time apart?
M.J. is a graphic designer and illustrator and proud momma to three. She founded Pars Caeli (meaning a piece of heaven), a happy blog and shop on the web, three years ago to share projects for kids, parents, and home to add a little creative to the everyday. She worked with our team to bring her lunchbox jokes to life in our product Lunchtime LOL Notes, now available to kick off the school year!