If you have been at work all day, you may feel pressure to have quality time with your child. If you are arriving home during the evening routine it may end up being a really stressful time and you may wish you’d stayed at work longer! To avoid this, you could make a habit of spending 15 minutes with each child when you get in so that you have the quality time you wish for. Chat, play a quick game, read a story, mess about or whatever feels like a fun, loving way to reconnect. Each child knows that they will get their turn, so the competitive squabbles can be avoided. Discuss the impact that this will have on your partner’s evening, as it does mean you’ll be less available for chores until after the children’s bedtime.
If it is in any way possible, unwind before you arrive home. Walk for part of the journey, read a book or watch a programme on your tablet on the train, or listen to an audio-book. If you drive home, stay in the car for five minutes and listen to the radio or think what the 3 best moments of your day have been so far.
Teach your children that mums and dads get tired, hungry and grumpy sometimes too. Explain that after a long day at work and school, you all need to be especially patient and loving with each other, as it can be a tricky time of day to navigate. One of the best ways to encourage children to talk about their feelings is to be a role-model of the skill. Talk about your feelings and day in a way that is age-appropriate. We don’t want to dump the world of adult problems at their door, after all! Over time, they will develop empathy and understanding of your feelings and their own.
Look closely at your child’s evening timetable. If they are over-tired and over-sensitive on a regular basis in the evening, decide if there is any activity that could easily be left-out for a while. Evenings are the repository for so many activities. There may be homework, clubs, television and computer time, playtime with you or their siblings, play dates with friends, reading, homework, organising clothes, lunch, schoolbag and P.E. kit for the next day etc, etc, etc! If your children have had a chance to rest and wind down for the evening, you are much more likely to have positive interactions and time with them.
Start a family gratitude journal. Each person chooses two or three moments from their day that they are really glad about. One person can be the scribe and write these positive moments into the journal. We get more of what we focus on, and by focusing on the positive aspects of the day, you and the children will get into the habit of scanning the day’s experiences for the most enjoyable or positively noteworthy moments.
First published in my parenting column in the Croydon Advertiser on 17th May 2013
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