How to Be Present for Your Children After School

Being present and listening is the most important thing a mother can do for her children. How to make the most of the afternoon “download”

Listening is the most important thing a mom can do for her kids

I feel confident in saying that the craziest time of day for moms is right after school. You might think it’s because of homework or having to chauffeur to extracurricular activities, but it isn’t. It’s because I have three children who all want my attention right now this minute.

Sometimes my brain wants to explode because it is so difficult to give my attention to any of them when they are all screaming for my attention—sometimes literally screaming. If I am listening to one of them, I am inevitably interrupted by the others several times.

But that after school “download” as I like to call it, is tremendously important. Kids need their mom (and dad, too!) to listen to them. They need to be heard. They need a mom who is not distracted and able to focus 100% on them—even if the things they’re telling you seem unimportant.

The thing is, whatever it is they’re telling you is the most important thing to them at that moment. It may seem like the playground drama du jour or the funny thing their friend posted on Instagram isn’t worth your time to listen—but it is.

Your children need you to be present, undistracted, and listening.

I have to admit, I have enjoyed the school schedule here on sabbatical because my children all come home at different times. My oldest gets home around 2:30 and I have time to talk with just her before my middle daughter arrives around 3:00. I can turn my attention to her for a half hour and then my youngest gets home at 3:30. The staggered schedule has done wonders for my ability to give my undivided attention to each child individually.

When it comes to being a mother, there are plenty of good and important things to do each day. But don't let the day pass without spending individual time with each child.

We will be going back to Michigan in January, and they will again be arriving home simultaneously. This means I’m going to have to figure out how to still give them each the attention she needs without getting frustrated that they are all trying to talk to me at once. Because that never ends well.

Make the most of the after school “download”

1. Use a timer

If you have multiple children, explain that you would like them to take turns talking to you. Set a 20 minute timer (I use this awesome timer) and let each one talk to you for 20 minutes and then switch kids. If fairness becomes an issue, you can change who goes first each day.

2.  Remove distractions

Put down your phone, your computer, the dishes, the laundry, whatever it is you feel you need to get done and give your children your undivided attention. I would even go so far as to turn off your notifications or turn your phone off so that you will not be tempted to check an incoming text or email.

3. Talk in the car

If you will be in the car alone with one child to take her to dance class then use that time wisely! Keep the radio off and use the drive to really listen to her.

4. Tuck them in

On particularly crazy afternoons, I sometimes barely see one or two of my children. On those days, I make it a point to go up to their room and tuck them into bed so we can have that download time. It’s always interesting to me that on days where they had plenty of time to talk to me they don’t have much to say at bedtime, but on the days where we didn’t have that time they have plenty to say.

I am so thankful that I have worked hard to develop this habit with my children—talking to my middle daughter every day was what helped me to figure out her bullying situation. If I hadn’t taken that time, I don’t know that I would have been quite so aware of the signs and she might not have ever opened up about it.

I don’t think it really matters when you do it, but don’t let the day pass without giving at least 20 minutes of total focus and attention to each of your children. Perhaps this seems really obvious, but I know that even the most simple things can sometimes be difficult to execute. In this day and age, there are a million distractions and it really isn’t easy to remain present with our children. Don’t fall into those traps and make it a habit to give them each those 20 minutes. You’ll be so glad you did!

  • Small Habit: Give 20 minutes of individual attention to each child every day.
  • Big Difference: Know what’s going on in their lives, improve your relationship with them, help them to be more successful and work through problems, and much more.

This post is part of a Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.

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