I’m watching my girls do their homework and read, respectively, right this minute as I type this.
The house is absolutely silent except for breathing and gum chewing.
They’ve had a snack. They’ve played in the yard.
And now they are ready to do their homework ritual at our dining room table.
I’m working because I am now juggling a part-time job as a substitute teacher at their school.
They’re working because Holy Growth they are in second grade and second grade is serious, ya’ll.
All this to say, that afternoon rituals have been and are immensely important to me as part of setting peaceful boundaries. They were when I was a working mom. And they are now especially since I can meet them on the front porch and offer a snack and peaceful afternoon as a work-at-home mom. That is how I choose to add more joy into our afternoons.
I’ve learned a few things about how to make afternoons peaceful and productive — and fun. Thinking ahead is all part of my Thinking Mama’s To-Do list that I try to use daily. These rituals can be adapted to your families needs and schedules. If you are a frazzled working mom, you need this more than anyone so carve out the time …
The Snack Ritual — Have it ready (even if you make it the night before) and keep it healthy. If you can, offer a very tiny little treat with it. So, for instance, apples and a pinch of Nutella to dip or a fortune cookie. A couple slices of cheese and a small handful of mini candies or a mint. Chocolate milk and a cookie.
The Playtime Ritual — Older kids can create their own play activities but it doesn’t hurt to have a plan or two in place, just in case. And, for the younger children, it’s always good to have a planned game or activity ready such as coloring or drawing together, reading a book or playing with and caring for a family pet. Doing roughly the same kind of activity afterschool really helps children transition from school to home. Even if you work and rush in the door, take 10 minutes to connect and play together to talk about your days and to set up the evening.
The Schedule Ritual — Because we follow a pretty tight schedule, I love to tell my girls all of what we/they need to accomplish in a night, including the fun stuff. So, while they eat snack or during their playtime, we’ll talk about what’s for dinner, who has a meeting that night and what and when homework will be worked into our evening. But, I’ll also remind them that they have a book they want to read or time to take a walk around the block. Creating time for fun and downtime as a family is so important to feeling more connected and engaged.
The Active Ritual — Being more active and fit as a family is important to me but I’ll admit it’s almost always the last thing I make a priority. So, making a family walk or a friendly game of hula hooping a part of our afternoons has made exercise more fun. If you get home right at dinner time then working this ritual in after dinner is a must. If you are home with plenty of time to spare … why not throw dinner in the oven and head outside to the yard for a quick game of tag or hide and seek. Just be sure to stress that you have to check on dinner now and then.
The Chatting Ritual — I never expect to get answers from my girls about their day. But, perhaps because I was a reporter for so many years, I do know how to ask good questions to get them talking. The set up and the phrasing really is everything. If you ask, “Did you have a good day?” You’ll get a single word answer. But, if you ask tell me something that happened today that made you feel happy or sad or mad … you are bound to get a good answer. This is NOT the time for lectures. Just listening and building confidence — and a little trust, too. Other questions to ask: What friends did you sit next to at lunch? Who did you play with at recess? Did you see anyone doing anything kind today? Did you do anything kind today?
The Dinner Ritual — Same time. Every night. Homemade. Without fail. Same seats. Same plates. It is possible.
The Homework Ritual — Set up homework boxes with all the proper homework tools — crayons, pencils, markers and loose change for math. Sit near them to help if needed and to lightly check over and see if all the work was done — and done correctly. Work together on any changes. Be there. Do your own thing but make the homework routine a priority. There is nothing more annoying than hearing a parent say my child won’t do their homework. Model its importance by putting in the time and sharing in the experience. Growing lifelong learners takes side-by-side work and enthusiasm.
Please share. What after-school rituals have you started or do you wish to start?
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