Hey, Mom or Dad! If you’re like me, managing screen time for your kids can be a struggle. How much should they have? What impact is that tiny screen having on their development? What about when they’re on screens at school? I get it. The questions about screen time limits can be overwhelming.
There are countless articles addressing screen time for kids.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has several age-specific recommendations in Media and Young Minds. To name a few, they recommend no media for children 2 and younger and only one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. Well, I’ll be the first parent to raise my hand and admit I dropped the ball there.
Maybe you’re right there with me. If so, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting over the past nine years, it’s that we need to give ourselves (and our kids) a lot of grace. We didn’t get a parenting handbook the day they were born, and they didn’t get a child handbook, either. We’re all learning as we go.
Now back to those pesky screens. They’re everywhere, and they’re part of everyday life. So, we need a plan to use them (and not let them use us).
Limiting screen time is very important for your child’s development, but limiting your own is just as important.
Oh no, he didn’t just say that!
Yes. Yes, I did!
You want to be a good parent. You know that the best way your child learns is through example. Your kids learned to walk and eat by watching you do it. Whatever trait they’ve learned, they learned from someone. Technology usage is no different.
And this isn’t just about teaching your kid how to use technology effectively. It’s about you using it effectively and managing your screen time.
I know I’m asking a lot. Don’t worry, I’m looking in the mirror challenging myself here, too. I need to set better screen boundaries for myself.
So, where do we start?
Here are a few ways you can help set limits for the entire family.
1. Create tech-free zones in the house.
Talk to your family and create some tech-free areas or times at home. The dinner table is an excellent place to start. Make a rule that while you eat dinner, no phones or TV. But what are you going to do? I’m so glad you asked. Take this time to ask questions. Check in on each other’s days. Grab a list of random questions and work through those.
2. Establish tech-free times.
Maybe you can have a weekly game or movie night. A movie involves a screen, but you can put all other devices on airplane mode or away while the movie is on. Implement those movie theater rules. Set aside times for you and your partner to be tech-free after the kids go to bed. Be intentional about your time together.
3. Turn off notifications.
Turning off my notifications was one of the best things I ever did with my phone. The only notifications I get are messages and the weather. When your notifications are off, you choose when you use the technology. You don’t let the little ding dictate your usage. Researchers have even proven the little notification ding gives us a shot of dopamine.
4. Track screen time.
This one is for everyone. Most phones or devices have screen time or screen health settings. Track the usage for the family. Set sleep times for all devices and limit screen exposure before bed so it doesn’t interfere with sleep quality. Monitor what you use your device for and when.
Modeling healthy technology use for your kids will help them in so many ways. Remember, not all screen time is bad, and there are plenty of creative ways to use technology as a family. Just being intentional about your usage and setting some limits can create positive change now and in the future.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Untitled-2-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2022-01-19 10:31:372022-08-16 09:45:53Why You Need Screen Time Limits, Too (Not Just Your Kids!)
Make your time during the holidays together worthwhile!
Staying connected as a family can be challenging during the holidays, especially after you factor in parties, school programs, family celebrations, and the everyday busyness of life. But don’t worry, connecting with your kids doesn’t have to be complicated!
Here are 10 ways to connect with your kids this holiday season:
1. Play games.
A lot is going on right now, but playing games with your kids is a great way to connect. Mom or Dad, let’s be honest: We can sometimes see this as an inconvenience. Most games are pretty quick, though, and your kids will appreciate the time you spend together. So break out the cards or board games, and let them win a little.
2. Include them in the holiday prep.
If your family is like mine, you’ve probably been going in 10 different directions. That’s a lot for kids to take in. And they want to be helpful. Let them help with baking and wrapping presents. If you’re hosting a party, they can help get the house and food ready.
3. What’s their favorite thing to do during the holidays?
There’s so much to do and so much fun to be had! Find out what your child loves to do and do it as a family. My oldest always wants to ice skate, so we’ll carve out some time after New Year’s to hit up an ice rink. Our youngest loves Christmas lights, so we take every opportunity to enjoy the lights.
4. Sing Christmas songs together.
Nothing says holidays like music. Let everyone pick out some songs and sing them together. Let the kids take the lead. Create a playlist for car rides. Maybe you can even go Christmas caroling!
5. Watch holiday movies together.
Grab some popcorn, ditch the electronics and watch some holiday classics. Maybe let each member of the family choose a favorite. A fun idea is to let everyone write movie titles on a slip of paper and drop them in a jar. Then you can randomly select and enjoy them together (without fighting over who goes first).
6. Try hot beverages together and teach them how to make their favorite.
You know what’s good on a cold day? A hot drink! Introduce your kids to a few different hot drinks and make them together. My 9-year-old loves to make hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. Get creative and help them discover what they like.
7. Set aside time to check in on them.
The holidays are hectic for everyone. Rushing from work parties to social parties to school events can be exhausting. Your kids feel it, too. Set aside some time to talk and see how they’re doing. Listening can help you connect deeply with your kids.
8. Make something special for others.
Our family has two holiday traditions that we look forward to every year. We make peppermint bark for our neighbors. The kids have transitioned from just delivering it to helping make it. They love to give. We also bake cookies for first responders on Christmas. They love to deliver these to the local fire or police department. Ask your kids what you can do as a family to give back to those around you.
The holidays are a terrific time to give back. Contact local organizations to see if you can volunteer as a family. Try your local food bank, homeless shelter, or the Salvation Army if you’re unsure where to start. Or try one of our personal favorites: Clean up a local park or neighborhood.
10. Take a family day.
Most kids get a two-week break for the holidays. You may have travel plans and family gatherings that take up lots of that time. But take a day for just your family. Make it an adventure and let the kids help plan it.
I’ve found that the greatest gift I can give my kids is my time. We love creating memories together. They may not remember the presents you gave them, but they will cherish your presence and attention.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Untitled-7-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-12-10 14:31:312021-12-21 10:17:0910 Ways to Connect With Your Kids This Holiday Season
These tips can help you have more joy in your parenting.
Your social media feed is full of birth announcements, and you and your spouse are thinking it might be time to have kids of your own. Then the questions start popping up: How will children impact our lives? What do we have to give up? What will having kids do to our marriage? Will kids make us happier? Or will we just be tired and stressed?
So, you do what many of us do… ask Google. You hit enter, and the results are endless. Where do you begin?
Countless people have tackled this question.
A large body of research shows that parents are indeed less happy and experience more depression and anxiety.
And often, they have less fulfilling marriages than non-parents.
One study involving 22 countries found that the emotional and financial costs of having children outweigh the emotional rewards. Ask any parent, and they’ll acknowledge that having kids is expensive and exhausting. Parents never have enough time, lose sleep often, struggle to find quality child care, and constantly battle work-family balance.
That’s heavy, but it’s the reality of parenting. You may be thinking, “Well, that settles it. No kids!”
Hang with me for the next few minutes, though. I’d like to offer some hope.
Another study found that overall, people who have kids report being happier and more satisfied, and thinking more about meaning in life than non-parents do.
Parents also reported more positive emotional experiences and meaning from moment to moment.
Researchers at Santa Clara University discovered that parents become happier over time than non-parents. Parents experience increased social connection and well-being over time. Having kids may keep parents from experiencing disconnectedness over time.
So the research is mixed on whether kids make us happier. Some say you’ll be stressed and anxious, and the quality of your marriage will decline. Others say you’ll experience more long-term happiness.
But is happiness the goal of parenting?
We’re wired from a young age to do what makes us happy. Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. If happiness is the only measure of fulfillment, parenting may not be the answer. But there’s so much more to life than happiness.
If we focus on joy and finding meaning, life will be more fulfilling. Happiness is a response to what we receive. Joy and meaningfulness come from what we receive and making positive contributions to others.
Here are a few ways you can find joy as a parent:
Life is busy. Being a parent takes intentionality. Commit to set aside the electronics and be present from day one.
Make time to play. Sure, parenting is stressful, but you can still have fun. Being a parent brings out your inner child.
Know what really matters.
As you think about having kids, you may ask yourself, “How can I do this?” The list of things parents have to worry about seems endless. But according to author and psychotherapist Tina Bryson, the most important thing a parent can do is be there for their child. Just show up, physically and emotionally.
Find joy in the moment.
Parenting is full of tough times, but don’t let the hard stuff consume you. Focus on the joyful moments. Address the challenges and then let them go.
Take time to recharge and refocus.
Don’t let your kids be all-consuming in your life. If you’ve flown before, you know the safety drill: Put your mask on before trying to put someone else’s mask on. The same goes for parenting. How well can you care for your kids if you don’t take care of yourself?
Build a community.
Your parents or grandparents probably said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it’s true. Build a community of family and friends around you. Find a support network that you can lean on when you need help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Healthy people ask for what they need, so there’s no shame in asking.
Maybe parenting doesn’t make us happier in the short term. It’s a lifelong journey, and there will be peaks and valleys. Choose to focus on the joy of parenthood. After all, you have the privilege of helping your child learn and grow into adulthood.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Untitled-19-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-12-06 14:05:192021-12-07 10:56:02Does Having Kids Make You Happier?
As a proud mom of three sons, I’ve made my home more like a locker room than a designer showcase. I made sure there were couches and carpeting to decrease the likelihood of injuries. Despite all of the rough-housing and teasing, I just expected that they would be kind to each other. I never even thought they would need to “learn” to be kind. Instead, I felt they would catch it by watching me and automatically learn to be kind people. That’s not the case. Kindness is a skill that we must teach our kids, but it will last a lifetime.
Here are seven ways to teach your child kindness:
1. Model kind behavior.
I can’t overstate the fact that YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING YOU. They are watching and listening to how you talk about your boss after a long day of work. Are you kind even when you are frustrated? It’s hard to tell your child to be friendly and thoughtful while your behavior toward others isn’t nice and kind.
Kindness begets kindness. Say something like this to your child: Hey, you know it’s trash day. I see that Mr. Smith’s can is still at the curb. Wouldn’t it be kind if we rolled it up for him?
This may be a small gesture for an elderly neighbor, but you are sowing seeds of kindness in your child’s heart.
3. Develop your child’s emotional vocabulary.
Just like we teach our children words for body parts, animals, and colors, they need words for emotions so they can express themselves kindly. Include a variety of emotions: sad, happy, angry, hurt, or embarrassed, etc. We also have to teach our children to watch body language and facial expressions. Play Emotions Charades with your child so they can learn different emotions and kind ways to respond or show how they feel.
4. Make kindness a habit.
Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Create a list with your child of small things that you can do to be kind. Start the conversation with: I know this month we are trying to be kind to others. What is something that you can do daily? Examples include:
Smiling when you see someone.
Saying please and thank you.
Creating a Family Kindness month. where your family performs acts of kindness.
Home is the first place for our kids to learn about kindness. Your children must learn how to interact with parents, siblings, extended family, and family pets. Having specific expectations like not hitting and not yelling at others are ways to start the process.
6. Recognize when your child is being kind.
Try to “catch” your child in the act of being kind. Maybe they fed the pet when it wasn’t their turn. Perhaps they picked up something they didn’t drop. Acknowledge their kindness by saying, Thank you so much. I appreciate that you ______________.
7. Encourage kindness – even when it’s hard.
It’s easy to be kind to someone you know and like. But how do you encourage your child to be kind if they don’t like someone? Or if that someone has been unkind to them? That’s tough. Butyou get to set the standard for kindness in any situation.
You may have to have a conversation with your child to acknowledge that it may not seem fair or right. It might also be helpful to explore what that unkind child may be feeling or experiencing in their lives which may cause them to act unkindly. Lastly, praise your child for trying.
One of my proudest moments as a parent came when my youngest son was in the 4th grade. His teacher texted me to say that he chose to sit with a new student at lunch instead of his regular friends. She said this student was having some trouble fitting in and the class knew and recognized it. However, the new student immediately became a part of the group through that one act of kindness.
When we teach our children to be kind, we teach them to see the best in others. It also brings out the best in them.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Untitled-1-01-3.png5001200Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-11-11 10:53:012021-11-15 13:57:38Ways to Teach Your Child Kindness
Halloween stress got you downright scared? Does the thought of taking your little monsters trick-or-treating give you nightmares and send shivers down your spine? Does the sugarfest at the end of the evening just make you want to screeaammm??
We all know that kids can sense the stress that we feel, which affects their stress levels.1 And that can make for a harrowing, horror-ific Halloween night.
But there’s no need for the stress of Halloween to drive you batty. Instead, try using these spooktacular tips below for a stress-free Halloween with your kiddos.
Scare up an easy dinner before you go out. Full tummies make for happier trick-or-treaters. Don’t make it complicated for yourself. Shoot for frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, or easy grilled-cheese sand-witches. And save a few leftovers for when you get back home.
Join forces with other families. The candy-hunting trip can be much more fun and manageable when you’re together with friends. Adults can help look out for each other’s kids. A long night of trick-or-treating can feel shorter (not to mention more relaxed) when you have other parents to share the experience with.
Hit the restroom before candy-sniping. Ok, you probably know this if you’re a veteran parent. But it’s a good reminder. Bladders are small, and frustrations can arise when you’re across the neighborhood and one of them “has to go…reeeaal bad…”
Pack for the road. Tote along a backpack with extra jackets, water bottles, an umbrella, and a plastic shopping bag (either for candy wrappers from “on-the-spot” taste tests, or in case the plastic pumpkin bucket snaps a handle). Your kid may insist on wearing their sparkly cowboy boots or dinosaur feet, so carry along an extra pair of sneakers in case they get tired, achy feet later in the trip. (A stroller or wagon is a good idea, too!)
Plan for the cold. If possible, have the rugrats wear PJs or sweats under their costumes. It adds an extra layer to cut off the chill, and they can easily peel their costumes off when they’re ready to sift through the spoils when they get back home.
When it’s time, kill the porch light. You and the family may like to hand out candy to other little witches and ghouls once you get home from your own trick-or-treat trip. But don’t forget to take the opportunity to spend some alone time together as a family. Close the door, turn the porch light out, brew up some hot chocolate, and cue up a kid-friendly Halloween flick until it’s time for lights out.
Relocate for trick-or-treating. Is your neighborhood not the most lucrative on Halloween night? Is the candy supply in short supply on All Hallow’s Eve? Trying to avoid taking your kid by Old Farmer Johnson’s abandoned shack to see who has a pack of licorice to offer? Find out who in your town is offering treating opportunities. Sometimes the stores in the mall will hand out candy. Churches, community centers, and other organizations will often host Halloween festivals or “trunk-or-treat” nights. This keeps the candy-hunting in one spot, facilities are close and convenient, and high-grade candy is usually abundant.
Offer candy credit. Before the little monsters start goblin up all the processed sugar, make a deal with them that they can trade in a portion of their loot for other incentives. Maybe they give you 80% of their lot for a trip to buy a $10 toy. Or for half their chocolate, you’ll take them to see a movie at the theater. Donate their trade-in candy to a good cause.
When it’s all said and done, Halloween should be an opportunity for families to draw closer and share a fun experience together. And being stress-free doesn’t have to be just witchful thinking. Trick-or-treat yourself (and your kids) to a stress-free Halloween night!
1Laurent, H. K. (2014). Clarifying the Contours of Emotion Regulation: Insights From Parent-Child Stress Research. Child Development Perspectives, 8(1), 30–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12058
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-9-01-1.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-10-27 14:59:562021-11-01 09:41:33Tips for a Stress-Free Halloween
You can be their biggest encourager toward success.
Part of being a parent is being your child’s biggest cheerleader, encourager, and motivator. Our kids have a lot going on in their lives, and staying motivated in school can be a challenge. It’s a responsibility and a privilege to come alongside and help them discover what motivates them.
If you study great leaders or successful people, there’s often one key common trait: they are highly self-motivated. They have clear goals, take steps to achieve them, are passionate, and aren’t crippled by failure. There are numerous theories on what causes motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, arousal-driven, or instinctual. It may be all of those or a mixture. But self-motivation is definitely a driver of success.
You can help your child discover what motivates them personally and foster an attitude of self-motivation.
Here are 5 tips for keeping your child motivated in school:
1. Create a learning environment.
Let them know that your family takes education seriously. Help your child see themselves as a good student. See the world as an educational opportunity and find different ways to help children learn. You can help them learn in the real world by using the five senses and everyday activities (no textbook required).
2. Stay positive.
This may seem obvious but being positive is the best way to encourage your child. Reinforce positive behavior with praise and support. Acknowledge when mistakes happen, then turn them into learning opportunities.
Researchers have found strong evidence that when students believe in themselves, they achieve more academically. The best way for your student to believe in themselves is for you to believe in them. Students care when they think that others care about them.
3. Get involved.
According to the National PTA, the most accurate predictor of academic achievement is not socioeconomic status or how prestigious the school is that a child attends. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.
When parents are involved with their children’s school, they have the support to thrive and develop a lifelong love for learning. Showing interest in their studies, volunteering at school, and staying connected to their teacher are great examples of parental involvement.
Children with engaged parents are more likely to:
Earn higher grades,
Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education,
Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and
Have better social skills and classroom behavior.
Technology has made communicating with teachers convenient, but it doesn’t replace building a relationship with your child’s teacher. Parental involvement matters more now than ever. In 2016, research showed a drop in parents who believe that parent-teacher communication is effective. Knowing your child’s teacher and making sure they know you matters. Get to know other school staff as well.
4. Don’t obsess about the future.
As a parent, I want my child to be successful, but what does that mean? Does success mean they attend a top-tier college and launch a successful career? Maybe. Does it mean they discover what they love and chase that passion? Possibly. Does it mean they find ways to positively contribute to society and make the world a better place? Absolutely!
Your child’s education is essential, but don’t focus too much on what lies ahead. Help them discover what motivates them in school right now, and what makes them passionate. Help them see how they can contribute to their community now today. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in where we want our kids to go that we overlook living in the moment with them.
The future is important, and we should prepare them for what lies ahead. We don’t have to sacrifice the present in the process.
5. Reward effort.
Your child may be motivated in school by rewards, and that’s ok. Who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done? Research shows that external rewards can undermine students’ internal motivation for learning. The findings don’t mean, however, that incentives have a universally negative effect on internal motivation. In the same study, students who initially showed little interest in drawing and later received an unexpected reward for doing so chose to spend more of their free time on that activity.
Side note: It’s highly beneficial to reward effort as well as achievements. Maybe history isn’t their forte, and an average grade is the best they can achieve. If they’ve put all their effort into the work, it deserves to be recognized.
Although each student is motivated differently, if a student believes that hard work and persistence pay off, it strongly affects their motivation. Take the time to help them identify their motivators.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-1-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-10-26 11:09:552021-10-26 13:47:295 Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated in School
The cool, crisp mornings. The crackle of a bonfire. The gooeyness of s’mores. The vibrant colors popping in the trees. Fall is upon us, and it’s oh so magical.
The dawn of any new season brings opportunities to intentionally connect with your kids. It’s a great time to talk about what makes fall unique and learn more about your traditions and traditions around the world.
Here are some questions to kick off fall conversations with your family.
As with any good questions, take the opportunity to dig a little deeper into your kids’ responses. Ask them why they answer a certain way. Have fun! You might find some new fall family traditions in your conversations.
1. What fall scent smells the best?
Pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, apple cider, pecan pie, bonfire, just to name a few.
2. What’s your favorite fall activity?
Hayrides, trick or treating, pumpkin carving, the list goes on and on.
3. Where’s your favorite place to go in the fall?
Do you have a specific place you like to visit to see the leaves change? Is there an apple orchard or pumpkin patch that your family loves?
4. What’s your fondest fall memory from your childhood?
This could be a specific holiday, a fun trip, or just something that brings joy.
5. What fall holiday do you enjoy most?
6. What fall holiday from another culture would you like to learn more about?
9. What’s your favorite thing to watch in the fall?
(Halloween classics, Thanksgiving specials, football, the World Series, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or are you prepping for Christmas already?)
Would you rather:
10. Enjoy a pumpkin spice drink or apple cider?
11. Get lost in a corn maze or spooked in a haunted house?
12. Eat caramel apples or candy corn?
13. Watch football or baseball? (It’s the playoffs!)
14. Jump in a pile of leaves or go on a hayride?
15. Have a cool, crisp, fall day or go back to the summer heat?
Trivia (Who doesn’t love good trivia?):
16. What makes leaves change their color?
(Answer: Sugar is trapped in the leaves, causing red and purple colors.)
17. What country did Halloween originate from?
(Answer: Ireland. Halloween originates from a Celtic festival celebrating the new year on November 1. Traditions were to light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.)
18. What is the most popular autumn tradition in the world?
(Answer: Halloween. It’s traditionally celebrated as All Hallows’ Eve in many countries (the day before All Saints’ Day).
Bonus: Thanksgiving comes in second, followed by Dia de Los Muertos. If you want to explore another culture’s celebrations, I strongly recommend learning more about Dia de Los Muertos. Sounds like a “Coco” movie night!
Finish this statement:
19. My favorite Halloween treat is:
20. My favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving is:
Use these conversation starters at the dinner table or in the car.
Fall is a great time to connect as a family. Take the time to slow down before the bustle of the holiday season. The weather is perfect for getting outdoors and exploring with your family.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-16-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-10-18 15:56:532022-11-17 09:26:5020 Questions to Ask Your Family This Fall
You can help your kids feel safe and secure about school.
Day one of school came, and we were ready to rock. Excited to see friends, make new friends, and launch into a new adventure. But then we got to the front door, and our kindergartner lost it. She didn’t want to go, and the tears flowed. We made it through days one, two and three, and then we were a week in. As we figured out routines for a successful school morning drop-off, each day was better than the one before.
Then, quarantines hit, and school closed for a time. We had to start the process all over again. School drop-offs can be difficult for many kids (my 5-year-old despises it). It becomes more challenging when you have to alter routines due to things out of your control, like a pandemic.
It’s important to recognize and validate your children’s feelings. They may be anxious about a new place, new people, or the ever-changing schedule.
These tips from experts can help you navigate school drop-offs like a pro:
1. Talk about what’s going to happen.
Know your school’s drop-off policy and where your child will go. Create a morning routine that works for your family. Also, let your child know when you’ll be back to pick them up. The more comfortable they are with the daily routine, the more likely they’ll be able to accept and even look forward to the morning drop-off.
2. Make sure everyone is rested.
Good sleep goes a long way in preparing for the day. When you’re crafting the morning routine, give yourself plenty of time to get ready too. We’ve found that we need to get up at least 30 minutes before our kindergartner to make the morning less stressful.
3. Create a goodbye ritual.
When my son started school, we came up with a secret handshake. He looked forward to it every day, and it helped him mentally transition. My daughter has crafted her own goodbye ritual. Work with your child and come up with a goodbye ritual that makes them feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s a secret handshake or a hug at a specific spot on the way to school.
4. Offer a comfort object.
A source of comfort can be helpful if your little one is anxious about going to school. Check with their teacher to see what they can and can’t have. Maybe it’s a small stuffed animal in their backpack they know they can’t take out during the day. Perhaps a keychain clipped onto their bag or a family picture can remind them of home.
5. Arrive early.
School mornings are stressful, and that stress level can go through the roof when you’re running late. Plan to arrive early. Schedule in a buffer time so your child isn’t feeling rushed. Whether that’s getting to the car line early, arriving at school in plenty of time to walk them to the door, or getting to the bus stop in time to talk for a few minutes. Arriving early can lower everyone’s stress levels.
6. Make it quick.
I had a friend tell me recently that when she dropped her son off for his first day of daycare, the teacher said the best thing you can do is say bye and leave. This is so true; painful, but true. The longer you linger, the harder it is on them. Often, when a child enters school, they are mentally transitioning to the day ahead. My daughter’s emotional drop-off on the first day of school only lasted a couple of minutes, and then she got busy with her day.
7. Stay positive.
Another thing you can do to help your child have a successful drop-off is to stay positive. Our stress and anxiety can quickly transfer to them. If you’re confident and optimistic, they are more likely to do the same.
This school year looks to be full of unknowns. Each week, we don’t know how many days we’ll be in school or how our routine will be thrown off. We may experience that first-day drop-off anxiety numerous times, and we can help by being upbeat and positive. It may not be easy, but our kids don’t need easy; they need safety and security, and we can help them feel safe about school.