How to Engage Your Kids on the Ride Home From School

I’ve been trying to be intentional about using our car ride home from school as a time to reconnect with the kids and get information about their day. I like the car time for a few reasons. For one, I have a captive audience. There are no distractions – there is nothing else they are trying to do. I also like trying to glean info about their day while it’s fresh in their minds.

We’ve established a routine around the car ride home. We call it "Highs and Lows." (I didn’t make this up and surely we aren’t the first family to do this, but it works so well for us that I wanted to share.) Highs and Lows is exactly what it sounds like . . . each child takes a turn describing their favorite part of the day, and their least favorite part of the day. We’ve done this so often that my kids start in as soon as we are pulling away from the school parking lot.

What I love particularly about this routine is that it’s an open-ended question that can lead to much more revealing information than the old "what did you learn at school today?"  And to be honest, while I think it’s wonderful if Jafta learned the difference between stalactites and stalagmites during science, I also want to hear about the non-academic aspects of his day. I want to know about the social and emotional parts, too. Case in point – the other day, on the way home, I learned that one of my kids had been excluded from a "club" that all of their friends had formed at recess. They were devastated and hurt, and I would have missed it entirely if I’d only asked about what they learned.

The Highs and Lows routine has provided me with some really valuable information about how my kids are faring at school. I love hearing their successes but I also love hearing their struggles and being able to offer empathy and support. I also love having this conversation as a family, because I feel like it affords the siblings an opportunity to attend to each other’s feelings and know where they are struggling as well. Many times, one of the kids has mentioned a low, followed by a sibling offering help or support.

It’s a simple thing, but it has a big impact for our family. Even though our car ride home is only about 10 minutes, I feel like this time is a great bonding experience for us before we arrive at home to the chaos of after-school activities.

Do you have any rituals you do in the car on the way home from school? Any ideas for capturing that moment as a family connection time?