School is starting and for many families this means less time to relax together and more time apart. Parents with little ones departing for the first time to preschool or kindergarten may feel slightly sad or anxious about this big life change. Parents with older children can feel overwhelmed trying to balance full days of school and extra curricular activities with quality family time. It can be difficult to let our children go, knowing they will be experiencing many firsts without us. How can we be sure to stay connected to our children without hovering or imposing on their growing independence?
A tradition I have with my girls is our nightly sharing. Each night, after our bedtime routine, I crawl into bed for 5-10 minutes with each girl. As we cuddle together under the covers I ask them these 3 questions:
- What was the best part of your day?
- What was the worst part of your day?
- What is something you are thankful for today?
Each girl gets the chance to reflect on her day and share with me her experience. After I listen to their answers they in turn ask me the same 3 questions. I know on days when I have been at the studio all day my girls are just as excited to hear about my day as I am about their's.
I started this nightly tradition when Bria was 2.5 years old and started attending preschool. Up until entering school, Bria and I had spent all of our time together. We played, worked, and lived in each other's company. When faced with leaving her for 2.5 hours twice a week I wasn't sure if and how I would handle it. This was also around the same time Malia joined our family, so I wanted to be sure that Bria knew even though I was often occupied with her baby sister, she was a top priority in my life.
In the beginning Bria's answers were short, related to something that had happened in the last few hours of her day The things she was most thankful for were usually toys or dessert. But as each month went by her answers became more thoughtful. She did not just blurt out the first thing that came into her head, but she truly took the time to reflect on her entire day and pick the best and the worst parts. She also began to understand that the things she was truly thankful for were not material but rather the people in her life. I'll admit my heart melted the first time she told me she was thankful to have Malia as her little sister because she loved her so much. Malia has gone through a similar transformation in her answers, although some days I do still have to encourage her to really think about her whole day not just the last few hours.
These 3 simple questions have given me so much insight into my girls' worlds. At any stage their answers give me a window into what they love, what they are struggling with, and what is making a positive impact on their lives. What they share helps me understand what they need from me as a parent. Times when they need more independence and the opportunity to make their own decisions and times when they need more support and reassurance.
By going through this process every night my girls I also get a chance to help them work through any worry or anxiety they have. We talk, think about solutions, and sometimes just hug it out. As a child who would often lay awake for hours after bedtime worrying I hope to give my girls an outlet and strategy to rest peacefully each night. I realize they will still worry but ending the day feeling connected and supported goes a long way in nurturing their emotional wellbeing.
I don't see an end to our nightly sharing anytime soon. My sincere hope is that by making this time a priority in our relationship they will continue to share with me as they go through their teen years. By setting the foundation now we have so much potential to build a lifelong connection built on respect, trust and love.