Tips, ideas, and strategies for building strong and healthy relationships with your kids after school.

Finding ways to connect with your kids after school

I have homeschooled/unschooled my kids for the last eight years. But, this year, they are heading to school for the first time. It’s the right move for everyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not experiencing some serious anxiety about it!

Making time to connect with them after school is really important to me. It’s an opportunity to learn about their day and listen to their fears or concerns. Life is busy, so I have to be intentional about connection time and prioritize it.

Why Connecting with Your Kids After School is Crucial for Strong Relationships

Our kids spend a chunk of their day at school, regulating their emotions, dealing with conflict, and following social cues. When they get home, they may need a safe space to vent and release pent-up emotions. This after-school crash can be challenging, but remember that your child is still learning to self-regulate, and you are their safe space.

Taking the time to connect with your kids after school helps establish trust and open communication. It creates a way for your kids to safely come to you with problems without fear of judgment.

Understanding what is happening at school and how they are coping can help prevent family conflict and build strong relationships based on trust and respect.

Tips for Connecting with Kids After School

Life is chaotic, and as parents, we juggle many responsibilities. The good news is that connection isn’t necessarily about activities. You can create moments of connection throughout your week.

Find Your Daily Rhythm

Having a rhythm can help your kids know what to expect each day. It also allows them to understand what is expected of them. A rhythm offers your kids boundaries and structure while allowing you to make time for the most important things.

For example, we read a chapter of our read-aloud each night before bed. It’s a family affair, and we all cuddle up to listen. We also like a slow start, so we wake up before the kids to have some quiet coffee. This means we have the emotional capacity to deal with whatever the morning throws our way.

A rhythm establishes expectations and helps to ensure that moments of connection become a regular and consistent part of your day.

Here are some examples of activities that can be included in your family rhythm:

  • A daily check-in: Set aside a specific time to sit down with your kids and ask them about their day, listen to their stories, and be a sounding board. This can be as simple as having a snack together and chatting.
  • After-school activities: Have a playdate with your kids and learn about their day. Playdough, baking, gardening, and Lego are all great sensory activities to help your kids unwind from school and open up about their feelings.
  • Family dinner: Eating dinner together is a simple way to add connection to your day. We like to go around the table and say something good from our day, something bad from our day, what we are grateful for, and what we learned.

More Ideas for Family Connection

  • Game night
  • Movie Night
  • Build-Your-Own Pizza
  • Weekly walk
  • Volunteer
  • Have a picnic

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions allow your kids to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a non-judgmental and open environment. It also allows them to gain confidence in themselves by giving them the space to express their opinions and ideas.

Benefits of Open-Ended Questions

Develop Critical Thinking 

Open-ended questions invite you into your child’s world. They help children develop the ability to think critically and make connections between different information and situations. 

Improves Communication Skills

Open-ended questions give children the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. They encourage kids to share their experiences and use a wide range of vocabulary.

Encourages Reflection and Self-Awareness

Open-ended questions can help children reflect on their experiences and feelings, promoting self-awareness and self-regulation. It helps your child understand their emotions, thought processes, and behavior.

Creates Opportunities for Problem-Solving

Open-ended questions invite children to explore their own thoughts and ideas. It allows your kids to engage in conversations that enable them to think creatively and come up with solutions.

Builds Relationships

Open-ended questions create the space for a more meaningful connection. They allow kids to take the lead and share important emotions and situations.

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

  1. “What was the most interesting thing you learned today?”
  2. “What was the most challenging part of your day, and how did you handle it?”
  3. “What did you do today that made you feel proud?”
  4. “Can you tell me about a time when you helped someone or made a new friend?”
  5. “What was your favorite part of the day and why?”
  6. “What question do you have after your day?”

Remember, the goal is to encourage your kids to think critically, reflect on their day and express themselves. Open-ended questions should start a conversation, not force a response. If you need more open-ended question ideas, download the printable here.

Listen Actively to What Your Kids Say

Active listening involves several key elements:

Paying attention: Give the child your full attention and avoid distractions.

Understanding: Try to understand the child’s perspective and emotions empathetically.

Responding: Show your child that you are listening by nodding your head and making eye contact. Repeat what they say as a question to get them to share more of their day. 

Remembering: Remember what your child has shared with you so you can follow up with any fears or concerns.

Connection is Created

Creating time every day to connect with your kids is vital for forming healthy relationships. It develops trust and open communication that will give you a glimpse into their world.

Get curious about your kids and what they have to say. Listen carefully, ask questions, and give them the space to unwind after a busy day. Create a rhythm that allows you to connect with your kids without putting pressure on yourself.

Connection needs to be created, but being intentional about spending time with your kids is always worth it.

Caitlin Van Wyk content and copy writer

Hey, I'm Caitlin

Writer and Mom. Coffee, crochet, and creative writing are helping me navigate the chaos of motherhood as I share my knowledge and offer support to busy moms.

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