Back-to-school is one of those dependable transition moments in the year where fresh starts and renewed commitments flourish. With that in mind, I want to suggest a small, simple tweak that will prove game-changing in your relationship with your child…greet them by saying “I’m so happy to see you!” That’s it. Affirm to your child that they are genuinely missed and important to you. Humans are social beings and we all want, and need, to feel accepted and appreciated by others.
Words matter and the words we speak to our children and other familiar people in our life become habitual and even rote. Here I want to focus on how we greet our own children. But first, ask yourself two questions 1) are you happy to see them, and 2) do you tell them? It’s likely the answer to the first question is “yes” (most of the time), but I’m willing to bet that the answer to the second is “no”. So, what do you typically say? As a parent my welcome home interrogation went something like:
How was <insert school, practice, gathering, event>?
Did you have fun?
Who was there?
How did you do?
Did you remember to <insert whatever I’m sure they forgot to do>?
While as parents we are more likely to adopt this interrogation greeting style as our children become older and have more responsibilities to handle on their own, we need to consider how it makes our kids feel to be grilled in this manner. Are they left with the impression that what’s most important to us is they live up to our definition of academic and social success? Do they feel our expectations are too high? It’s reasonable to assume that if this is what we are always asking, then our kids will believe that this is what we care about and it’s what is most important to us.
Why as a parent do we opt to extract so much information from our kids the moment we see them? The answer is that as parents we ask so many questions because we are looking for information to alleviate our fears, concerns, and worries. It’s stress-relief pure and simple. It’s also well-intentioned. The worry stems from our love for our children and wanting them to be okay in every sense of the word. They’ve been gone, we’ve been worried, and we want immediate validation that all is well.
So, as you send your children off to school this year, try to practice this new default greeting and let them know that they are more than what they accomplished or experienced in their time away from you. As you notice the benefits, you may also want to use this greeting with friends and other important people in your life. Use the power of your words to embrace those you care about. Let them know you are happy to see them.