Do you know what the most difficult stage of parenthood is? Pregnancy? Newborn? High school? Well, the most difficult stage of parenthood is the one you are in at this very moment, purely because it is brand new to you. This is the case whether you have one child or five, because no child is the same. It’s a continuous learning journey.

This is us

My eldest started Grade R this year and my two-year-old started pre-school. This is a huge adjustment for all of us, but mostly for my eldest because she started at a new school where many of the other kids knew each other but she didn’t know anyone. We were really nervous about how she would settle in.

Previously, we had a class WhatsApp group where her teacher would send pics of what the kids got up to during the day and it kept us in the loop. Now there is no such thing, and unless she tells us what happened during the day, we have no clue what she was up to for those five hours.
If you have kids of any age at school then you know that the struggle is real.
“How was school today?”
“Fine.”
“Did you have fun at break time?”
“Yes.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing.”

Now, I don’t mind not hearing about every activity, because I also know that being at home puts my daughter into a different mindset. She’s more relaxed and carefree, so I’m not surprised that she doesn’t want to go through every little detail of her day.

However, what I worry about is there being little issues that turn into bigger worries in her mind that then become insurmountable hurdles, all because she doesn’t have the emotional tools to cope with whatever is worrying her. Fortunately, my husband came up with a really simple but effective game that we have added to our bedtime ritual. It’s called Goods and Bads.

How it works

Once the girls are bathed and in bed, we each get turns to go through three things that made us happy and sad/angry/frustrated during the day. This is when the lights are low, the mood is calm and the worries of the day surface. Instead of lying in bed and worrying about why someone didn’t want to play with her at school, she mentions it in her list. You will be surprised at the things that come up in this game – issues that she didn’t say a word about during the day, but which have clearly been niggling at the back of her mind. As she lists each thing, we discuss it. By talking it through, we give her the tools to understand what happened and why. This helps her to process it the next time a similar event occurs.

We also celebrate the ‘Happys’ even if it is something as simple as having banana bread at snacktime instead of tuna. It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the small things. They should revel in celebrating a friends birthday with cupcakes, or finding a pretty stone in the playground. It is more likely that the pretty pink stone will make the Happy list than an expensive new toy, believe it or not.

Come down from that pedestal

Jarrod and I also go through our own (child appropriate) list of Goods and Bads because it’s important to show the girls that Mommy and Daddy also feel the same emotions and that we too need to talk things through. There is no anger or admonishment during this game, regardless of what is said.
Everything spoken about needs to be accepted so that it remains a safe space to be open and honest. If there is something concerning that comes up then we discuss it the next day.

It isn’t easy raising kids. As a parent you want to be a strong figure in their lives but you also need to be accessible. Your child needs to feel safe enough to tell you anything, and if you listen openly when they are little then they are more likely to continue feeling comfortable talking to you as they get older.

Our kids love this game and it’s something that we all look forward to at night. It’s a lovely little bonding session at the end of the day that helps us reconnect with each other and something that we will keep doing for many years to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nadia Gabriel is the mother of two girls and blogs at thenonadventuresofasahm.com

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