Thoughtful Parenting: Make pick-ups happy reunions
Long day? Overwhelmed by your to-do list, and the ice cream is melting in the car? Yes, you say? Let’s make those pick-ups peaceful and quick.
Following are some tips for doing just that.
• Be explicit about your expectations about what’s expected during pick-ups. Children like to make adults happy, but when they don’t know what’s expected of them, they can’t cooperate.
We make assumptions that they know what to do during routines, but if they’ve never explicitly been told, they can’t know, and children, like adults, need practice. Telling them what to do in the heat of the moment isn’t so helpful.
Imagine your tennis coach yelling orders about how to serve in the middle of your match. You probably won’t alter your swing too much in that moment. It’s probably going to be your regular old swing, or maybe, it’ll be a terrible serve, because you’re overwhelmed with their additional stimulus.
But, when you and your tennis coach practice your serve by breaking down the steps, and you practice each step, chronologically, you’re more likely to actually improve your serve during the game.
• Set your routine. Have your child help tell this story.
“First, we say ‘hello’ and give big hugs; then what do we do? Next. I ask you about your day, and we get cleaned up. What would you like help with when we pack up? After we pack up, we head home to decide what delicious food we’re going to have for dinner.”
Even better, write and illustrate the “Going Home” book together. Be sure to talk about your leaving routine when you drive to school in the morning. If your child has a hard time with drop offs, this will reiterate that you’ll be there at the end of the day excited to see them.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. You can even play pick-up at home with your child.
So now it’s time to enter the classroom, and that ice cream is melting and the steak isn’t going to cook itself.
• Take five deep breaths before you get out of the car. Stick with a really calming routine: Inhale for eight seconds, hold the breath in your stomach for two seconds, exhale for eight seconds, hold for two seconds and repeat.
• Walk into your child’s classroom with a smile, and offer them a sweet greeting such as, “I’m so happy to see you,” or, “There’s my love bug,” or, “Hi, you.” Make your greeting genuine for you; kids are the ultimate lie detectors. Be sure to make physical contact with your child when you offer him or her this greeting. A gentle hand on the shoulder, arm or head will remind your child of your bond.
• Wait a moment and watch. Allow them time to wrap up. As our good friend Mr. Rogers reminds us, “Play is often talked about as a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
When you enter their classroom, offer them a few moments to finish their work. After you’ve given them some time, make an observation about what your child is working on. You could say “Oh, it looks like you and Max are having so much fun coloring. I see lots of purple,” or, “Wow, you and Stella have so much energy, you’re running really fast.” Then, let them know you can’t wait to hear about the rest of their day.
• Give them a minute or two of your attention and warmth, then let them know it’s time to head home. Be silly in this transaction. Your kid loves when you’re silly, and when you and your child laugh together, they are more apt to be helpful.
• As you’re gathering up their belongings, thank them for being responsible. Again, be genuine. “Thanks for carrying your lunch box,” or, “You must feel strong today carrying your lunch box,” Then, ask them any one of the Goldstein’s 30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of ‘How Was Your Day,’ and you and your child will be giggling all the way to the car.
Don’t forget, just like that tennis serve, your child isn’t going to have the perfect pick up the first, second or even third time after you’ve discussed and practiced your routine. Like your serve, it’s going to take some time. Be patient with them and with yourself.
Hannah Gooding has a master’s degree in education and human development and is a licensed teacher. She works locally as a parent educator to support parents in confidently navigating the joys and challenges of parenting. For more information, visit goodingparenting.co. Gooding can be reached at 970-819-9869.
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