Are you suffering from the post-school-holiday blues? Or worse, are you and your family dealing with "first-days-back" syndrome?
For school-aged kids, the first days back after a break represent a transition back to a different routine. This transition, however minor it may seem to you, can carry with it a mixed bag of emotions for your son. How you deal with these emotions can directly affect how connected your son feels to you.
However, as a coach and a parent, I have discovered one simple way to help ensure your son feels connected to you.
Make sure his attachment "tank" is full.
The attachment tank – replenish it daily
For every parent and/or primary carer, your son has an invisible tank.
It fills up when you and your son spend quality time together, and empties when he is separated from you – when he's at childcare or school, or when he is experiencing the natural levels of stress that come with learning and growing.
For most boys (and girls), these separations and stressors happen every day. And this is why it is so important for you to spend conscious time connecting and reconnecting with your son at the start and end of each day.
How can you tell when he's running on empty?
Unfortunately, there's no red light to tell you when your son's out of gas. You'll need to rely on observation.
Watch and listen for his cues. He may become whiney, slow in pace, teary, overwhelmed, angry, emotional, loud or quiet. Maybe your go-to solutions aren't working, or he's behaving in a way that's out of balance for him.
Pull over. You need to fill up, and fast.
It only takes a few minutes
In the real world, most of us don't have hours to spend having deep and meaningfuls with our son – especially when we have more than one child. However, a few minutes of one-on-one time each day (the Family Peace Foundation recommends 8 minutes) is all it takes to fill a child's tank.
And by putting in those precious minutes, you'll save time and energy elsewhere. When your son's attachment tank is full, he feels as though he can handle anything – including sibling disputes and homework.
He also feels connected to and loved by his parent – his safe keeper and hero. And yes, this goes for teens too, despite the eye rolling.
Here are some tips to help you stay connected to your son, and to keep his attachment tank full:
1. Be conscious
Each time you have one-on-one space with your son, give your full attention to how he is looking, feeling and acting. Don't just listen to what's being said. Tap in to your intuitive voice to get a read on what's beneath his words.
Older boys may not be comfortable with direct '"how do you feel?" questions. It may be that actions speak louder than words for your son.
Try doing an activity together, boys often open up verbally when their hands are occupied. This could be anything from playing ball to doing daily chores together.
3. Meltdowns may still happen
You may find that in the process of filling up your son's attachment tank, his behaviour temporarily regresses. Don't panic. This is perfectly normal.
With a full attachment tank, your son may finally feel able to let go of his daily stress and release emotions that he's been holding in. It won't be easy, but try and be patient. Offer him quiet support and steer clear of negative judgments.
Most importantly, don't give up! This emotional discharge is a wonderful thing for your boy and is part of the connection process.
4. Share your stories
Tell your boy stories about your day. Make them funny little bite-sized pieces that entertain as well as inform.
By sharing your experiences, you will invoke a social contract with your son, and he'll begin to learn how to tell you his stories. As with all new things, give it some time before you expect much of a response!
5. Be curious
When your son starts to share stories about his day, make room for him to feel heard.
Turn away from whatever you're doing (if you can) and give him your full attention. Ask questions from a place of curiosity, not judgment. Seek to understand him and his world and he'll be more willing to share it with you.
6. Space equals success
Don't push it. When your son's attachment tank is full, he'll be content to move away from you and get on with something else – playing with his sister, kicking a ball around, getting on with his homework.
This is great. Let him go and take a moment to high five yourself on your parenting awesomeness.
This post was first published on Understanding Boys and is republished here with permission.
Megan Tuohey is a mother of two boys and a Melbourne-based consultant and relationship coach. You can find more of her writing at www.megantuohey.com. You can also follow her on Facebook or Instagram.