6 Tips for Healthy After School Connection

Categories: Well-being

Written by Summer Darnell, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Clinical Director at The Nurture Place.

Healthy After-School Connection

It’s a new school year! Along with fresh pencils and notebooks, it’s a fresh opportunity to create and practice some healthy, new routines for our families. As we are adjusting to new people, places and challenges during the school day, we will need some extra support from each other at home. To prepare, along with coordinating bus schedules, drop-offs and pick-ups, let’s take some time to reflect, plan and be ready to connect with our child with intention at the end of each day. Here are 6 things we can consider:

Know your child.

Every child is different. Having a plan for reconnection that meets their unique needs helps this daily transition from school to home go smoother. Some kids may be ready to share all about their day right away while others may be grateful for a quiet moment and need some time to rest. I wonder which your child prefers?

“I missed you.”

You may be full of questions and curiosity about how their day went or you may be reeling from a tough day of your own. Before you pick up your child, take a mindful moment for yourself and set your intention. Greet them with kind eyes and a warm smile. Let your child know you are happy to see them after a day of separation. Maybe share a simple, “I missed you!”

Snacks and water.

None of us are at our best when we are hungry or dehydrated. Kids are often not tuned in to what their bodies need especially in busy school settings. Since many children eat lunch mid-morning, most are hungry by pick-up time. Often, having a quiet and unhurried time to eat and drink is calming.


It is so challenging to pause and be playful in the midst of busyness and stress but the impact is great! Mindfully investing 5-15 minutes of playfulness into your after-school routine can help the entire family de-stress as it injects a dose of positive, pleasant emotion and mutual enjoyment. Touch, eye contact, laughter and movement are good ingredients for a simple, playful moment with your child.

Express your own feelings.

Your child learns so much from you! When children observe grown-ups expressing gratefulness, naming emotions, overcoming frustration and setting healthy boundaries they learn to do this for themselves. For instance, acknowledge the normalcy of experiencing hard or difficult moments sprinkled in with the great ones during the day. You can model this for your child by sharing your own in an appropriate way: “I forgot to bring my lunch to work today and had to eat some old peanut butter crackers I found in my desk! I was hungry and grateful to come home and have a snack.” or “I lost a paper I was supposed to turn in and felt frustrated. I redid it and turned it in. I was proud of myself for getting it done – a second time!”


Driving, cooking, cleaning, bathing – in the midst of our daily routines are opportunities to listen. Make these times a phone-free zone to reduce distractions. Listen not only to what your child says but how they say it. Take notice of their body language, facial expressions, movement. Are they smiling or looking down? Are they skipping into the house or slouchily dragging their backpack in? These are clues to what they might need from you as they transition back home. Once they know you are listening they may have lots to share!

As we move into this upcoming year, we at The Nurture Place and Healthy West Orange wish you many beautiful opportunities to intentionally connect with your growing child. May they feel your warmth, your presence and your enthusiastic support, building their confidence as they prepare for the amazing growth and learning ahead!

About the Author

Summer Darnell is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (FL# MH17578) who loves helping children and families experience healthy, connected relationships. She is passionate about providing open and affordable access to family support, prevention and intervention and building collaborative, trauma-informed communities. Summer has completed training to help children, adoptive and foster families as well as new parents. She is a member of the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health and serves as a Clinical Consultant for Liz’s Legacy Foundation.

​Summer holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from American University in Washington, D.C. and a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. She is married to her husband, Jay, for over 25 years and she is mom to one young adult, Brantley, his wife, Amanda, and two children, Parker (15) and Haley (10).

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