As schoolkids across the country began to head back to class, millions of parents thought they’d be dancing a jig, getting loads of work done and enjoying a little “me time” during their newfound free time. Afterall, it has been roughly 19 months since schools first closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and kids were sent packing to do their learning at home.
However, some parents are discovering that — lo and behold — they’re actually missing their little buggers.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an average school day in the U.S. runs a little over 6.5 hours. The average number of days the kids are at school is 180 days each year. This means, after months of togetherness — lots and lots of togetherness — you will suddenly be away from your K-12 kids for approximately 1,170 hours this school year.
It’s no wonder you might be feeling a little bit bereft that they’re back at school. And this can be true even if you have been wishing for their return to campus for what seems like ages.
3 ways to make the absence less agonizing
So, how can you stay connected with your school-age kids even though they’re no longer right by your side? Try these three tips to make you — and your children — feel a little bit better about the sudden time apart.
- Pack a note with their nut-free lunch. Many schools may not allow the age-old favorite PB&J due to kids’ nut allergies, but they certainly won’t mind if a student comes to school with a special note in their lunch bag. One Louisiana dad turned his nearly 700 lunch notes — featuring messages of love, support and advice to help his daughter cope with her new-school anxiety and bring them closer together — into a book he hopes will inspire other parents. But you don’t need to become a published author to have a similar effect. Stick a Post-it in their backpack, write a sweet nothing on their brown paper bag or do a daily doodle on a mini whiteboard to stay connected with your kid.
- Create a custom handshake. If you’re not a person of many words or your kid would “literally die” if their classmates saw you lean in for a hug at drop-off, you can create a cool custom handshake shared between just the two of you before you leave the house. You don’t even have to limit it to your hands — throw in a toe touch or slick spin and decide what each step of the shake means without having to say it. A high-five might mean “Have an awesome day,” a fist bump could be “You’ve got this,” and pointing to the sky may signal “I love you to the moon.” Make it yours and yours alone to help you both feel not so, well, alone.
- Plan a “play-hooky day” (even if you’re not really playing hooky). While skipping out on a day of school may not be a great idea so soon after finally getting your kid back to in-person education, knowing that you have what will feel like a hooky day coming up might just be enough. From dusk till dawn, you can enjoy a day filled with fun, your favorite foods and having your little BFF back by your side. Whether you’re indoors or out, with friends or just family, saving or splurging, having a day together noted on the calendar will give you both something to look forward to.
And if none of these tips work, there’s always homeschooling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 2 million additional parents have joined the homeschooling ranks this year. Even though homeschooling days aren’t likely to be as awesome as your play-hooky days, they offer an alternative for parents wanting a little more quality time with their kids.