Your children head off each morning for a day of stress at school. Admittedly, it is usually only kid-sized stress but nevertheless, it takes emotional energy. They can handle it so much better if they know that they have a ‘big person’ at home who is on-side with them and backing them up. So as they face another challenge, perhaps they will think back and remember the last interaction that had with you that day. “Oh, that’s right. Mum didn’t come to a complete stop before she pushed me out the car this morning.” If we are talking stress, perhaps the most stressful part of your day is getting the kids to school. Here’s a school bag of tips around drop-offs and pick-ups. Keep the ones you like.
- Say goodbye to fights in the car
- Eight fun ways to turn car time into family time
- Beating school anxiety – powerful things parents can do
1. Leave early
“Hey! Tell that to my kids!” Sitting in the car, beeping your horn, shouting threats – the perfect start to every day. When they finally do get in to the car, do not threaten or bluster – just state what will happen. “You obviously need a bit more time to get ready. Tomorrow, if you are late in the car, you will be going to bed 15 minutes earlier and getting up 15 minutes earlier”. No lectures – just use your calm this-is-the-problem-and-this-is the-solution voice. If you actually follow through, you probably will not have to do it more than once.
Imagine you are waiting in the long queue to drop off your child and you have to wait while the car-load in front of you repacks their bags, finds their coats, and fusses over some money. Two minutes. Three minutes. Five minutes. What are they doing? What’s that you are thinking there, driver? Ooh, better not say that out loud in front of the kids. And better not be that driver. Have everything packed and ready to roll and when you come to a stop, kiss, wink, kind word, bye and gone! Speaking of being ready, if you have to go straight from school pick-up to sport or music or some other appointment, bring snacks. Parents who bring snacks will be regularly visited in their old age.
3. Serial story
This is better if you walk (can you walk to school? It’s better for everyone if you can) but even in a short drive to school, tell a short story that ends in cliff-hanging-to-be-continued-next-time-dramatic-chapter ending. Where do you get stories like that from? From your own amazing head! And yes, you can. Invent a hero (who is very much like your child), create the scene (pick a story they already know), add a villain, create a crisis and whammo! You have a story better than three-quarters of what they watch on TV. Or share turns creating a playlist and have car karaoke.
4. Catch up later
You are dropping off your child and ooh! There’s the teacher you wanted to chat to. And there’s your child’s friend’s parent that you need to see about a sleepover. And there’s the PTA committee member waving to you to stop and talk about the gala. Nope. Nope. Nope. Stop, drop and roll on out of there.
5. There are worse things than being late
“I don’t feel well.” “The big kids pick on me.” “I hate school.” Yes, it would have been much more convenient if they mentioned these things an hour ago , rather than while waiting in line at the drop-off zone. Do you (Option A) push them out the door with a cheery, “I’m sure you will be fine,” or (Option B) pull out of the queue and drive off somewhere for a chat? Let me be clear – there is no clear, 100 percent reliable, best-practice solution to this dilemma. Sometimes Option A will be just fine, sometimes they need more than an emotional BandAid and Option B will be essential. You need to use your wisdom and your knowledge of your child, but do not let your choice be made for you by your schedule of important things you have to rush off to. If Option B really is needed, it really is needed.
6. Stay vigilant
Watch for kids ducking and diving through traffic, move forward as soon as the car ahead of you in the queue moves, and quickly check that the right kids have jumped into your car. But also stay vigilant to your children’s world. Listen, as the chatter away, especially if they have mates in the car.
You could buy a nice book that teaches your children how to be patient. There are probably videos on the net they could watch too. They won’t work though. Not if they have seen you fuming and thumping the steering wheel. If you queue-jump, push into line or get cross at other parents, then do buy that book. Let your kids have it after you have finished with it.
8. Stay in your car
You swing through to pick up your kids and they are not there. You know where they will be – they will be shooting hoops. If you just jump out of your car and sprint through to the courts you could get them in no time. Yes, you can do that, but only when you are in the last lot of cars coming though the pick-up zone this afternoon. Loop around again. And again. And then park down the road, stroll back and shoot some hoops with your kids – while giving a little lecture.
9. Be completely there
Your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road but where is your head? Is it preparing for that meeting you will have in an hour? Is it scanning through the refrigerator working out what needs restocking? I know parenthood seems to go on and on and on but, believe me, it actually goes on and on and then stops, and then you will wish you had milked every moment you could have. Car times are great, even drop-off times. It is a perfectly natural time to catch up and debrief and coach. So be completely present, and let your phone be completely absent.
10. Do it right
It just so happens that your kids’ school is on a direct line from your home to your work, so it is really convenient to just whizz past and drop your kids off. Except that the drop-off zone is on the other side of the road and there is a no parking zone on your side of the street. Does it matter? Really? No parent who is so fabulous that they have already read right through nine tips on dropping off and picking up children would need to be reminded that adding to the traffic grid-lock around school and making kids cross busy streets are bad ideas, so I won’t remind you. Apparently, the school is not a on a direct line to work, after all – you have to go around the block to get on the right side of the road. What a nuisance – it takes a whole extra 90 seconds.
Attend a Toolbox parenting group
The four Toolbox groups – Early Years (0-6), Middle Years (6-12), Tweens and Teens (12-18) and Building Awesome Whānau (0-12) are available throughout the country. In an informal, relaxed and friendly environment (often someone’s home) participants are equipped with practical skills and strategies that can be immediately put to use. Over six sessions, key parenting principles are explored and participants are encouraged in their parenting. Find out more and register here.