Kris’ Corner – After School Rituals

February 2, 2023

Moving along in our work through rituals in our homes, we come next to After School Rituals.

Now, I know this will differ for many of you from case to case. Some foster parents work outside the home full-time, some work part-time and some stay at home full-time (BTW I understand that each one of these is a full time job and then some!). Some foster parents are single and some are not. Point being: work and family dynamics will be different from home to home, and I know application of this one especially might vary widely…so as I give you some generalizations, please know it’s simply fodder for consideration and a prompt to consider how things are done in YOUR own home. Also know that NO ONE is probably doing all of these rituals and so if there’s a ritual time slot which I discuss and you aren’t able to do it, it is in no way a reflection on your amazing parenting!

I’m just here to encourage!

All that said…for those who are home to welcome a child in after a day at school, I just want to give a little word to consider. After school rituals don’t have to be anything big or elaborate…it could be as easy as sitting together and having a snack. And who doesn’t love a snack?!?

It gives opportunity for a child to share about their day (if they’re inclined) or you to at least ask questions beyond “How was your day?” Or “What did you learn today?”. And if that doesn’t ever seem to warm them up, maybe, if it speaks to the child, doing more of the read aloud if that’s something you did in the morning. Or simply doing the read aloud now instead of trying to do it in the morning. Maybe playing a game or working a puzzle.

And then, after a snack and re-hydration, another ritual could be sending a child outside to ride their bike or jump on the trampoline for a few minutes. I know this might seem strange, but I once knew a mama who had a stack of firewood which her child would move every day after school…one day he’d move it to the right side of the yard and stack it. The next day he’d move it to the left. It wasn’t about location of the firewood…it was about giving him a heavy-work task to help settle and focus him…to work out any proprioceptive things he needed to address after a day of sitting in the classroom.

And even though the process of moving firewood may seem odd to most of you (it definitely does to me!), it worked for their family and helped him be successful in the evenings. It was their ritual!

One brief aside about that: For the most part, every child coming home is going to have some homework most nights. Even in kindergarten! So after sitting in the classroom all day, more often than not, kids from hard places need to have some free time, some vitamin D, if possible, and a chance to work out those muscles. They’ve been holding in a lot of stress and tension all day.

Sometimes that’s their focus during the day: simply have enough self-control to survive the day in the classroom…learning is sometimes secondary. And if someone finds a method which helps their child, I, for one, say go for it! If moving firewood is what works for them, I am not here to judge that!

But that’s not what I’m trying to talk about.

My point is to allow kids some downtime and a chance to reconnect with you before they start on the homework. A snack with some protein is always a good idea as well. Then some time to work out that energy.

And THEN comes the homework…which is, quite honestly, another opportunity for a ritual. What does homework look like for your child? Are they wanting to be close to you? If you work from home, do you have an area in your office where you could allow the child to set up shop and have close proximity to you? It may not even be that they need your help; they just want to be near you.

Or if the child is older and wants to work alone, do they have adequate space in their room? Or maybe in the family area where they are out in the open and yet still close to people…but also maybe not feeling like they’re constantly under a watchful eye?

Again…these are just suggestions for opportunities for connection and healing for the kids in your home. Every family functions differently, but yet every child (and honestly every parent too) needs to have the chance to connect with others…in a healthy and nurturing way.