A Predictable Re-entry Ritual Can Benefit You and Your Children


Bring Peace to Late Afternoons with a Ritual of Re-entry

Developed by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka Ed.D. and Lynn Jessen M.A.

Returning from school, childcare or from the other parent’s home, if you share custody, can be a very difficult transition for all. A ritual of entry that soothes and calms can ease the pain of transition.

When your children arrive, know that they have been working very, hard while away from you, and may be at a point of overload. Think about what they need to bring their arousal system back into a state of calm energy. Are they hungry?  Do the introverts need space and quiet? Are the extroverts eager to tell you about their day? Would time playing outside re-center them, or perhaps a warm bath is just what is needed.  

Together with your children make a plan. What you do will vary according to the needs of each child, but once you establish the plan follow it. To help your children adhere to the system create a visual map of the sequence so they can see it as well as hear it.

We realize every day may not be the same. One day you may pick-up from school and the next from soccer practice, but when you come home you can still maintain the sequence. If this is not possible, create a ritual of entry specific to that “day,” and let the children know at breakfast that morning the “special day re-entry plan” will be in place. 

The plan for your children will be different from that of your friend’s children, but an example may be: Arrive home. Put away coat and shoes. Empty backpack. Eat mid-afternoon snack while talking with parent, then go outside to play for thirty minutes. Use a color timer, so the children know how long they can play.

Or, perhaps for a child who gets anxious about homework, the plan may be put away coat and shoes. Empty the backpack. Eat snack. Do twenty minutes of homework, and then into a bubble bath to relax or go outside to play. 

A re-entry ritual allows your children to know what to expect when they arrive home. There are no surprises or sudden change of plans. Instead, there is a comforting sequence of calming activities. Once restored they will be ready to move on to other late afternoon activities, such as practicing an instrument, or completing homework if they did not finish it earlier. Now, however they move into these activities calmer, ready to focus and perform. It may not be perfect, this is still a challenging time of the day, but it will be better.

Could your family benefit from a predictable ritual of re-entry?

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