Family Check-In Routines: When You Come Home

Family routines become more and more important as children get older and become independent. Here is a routine my family always followed: checking-in when you come home. When your children start going out with friends unaccompanied by you, a whole new realm of possibilities open up – both good and bad. The good things are apparent:

  • your child is making friends;
  • your child is getting to do activities;
  • and your child is learning to be independent.

But, children who are learning to be independent make mistakes. It’s part of the process that successful parents know they can’t control. The problem is that the world is not always a nice place and our children’s mistakes could have dire consequences.

What can you do to minimize the mistakes your child can make? A couple of different things, like talking to them, knowing who their friends are and checking up on them – which is the one of the reasons you need a Family Check-In Routine for when family members come home. You want your child to know that you will check in with them, they will be seeing you when they walk through the door. Of course, when your child is young this isn’t really a concern. But getting into a family check in routine will help your child think twice as they get older and their peers offer ways to get into trouble. No one wants to go home and kiss mom with cigarette smoke on their breath so, your child will think twice if anyone ever offers them a cigarette and says, “Try it!” And come to think of it, younger children may avoid making mud pies as well. There are a few more good reasons to develop a check-in routine:
  • A routine can help keep your family’s time management run smoothly.
  • You will be able to tell your child any messages.
  • You can check on your child’s homework or chores.
  • You can stay connected, find out how their day was, and let them know you were thinking about them.

What Should This Routine Look Like? It’s really a very simple routine that you probably are already doing. When your child comes home from being out with friends, they come see you first. They don’t go to their room, they don’t go to the bathroom and they don’t go to a room where you are not. They come say hello, give a hug and check-in. It’s courteous and a part of what a connected successful family does. Younger and school-age children love to tell you all about their experience away from home. They usually coming running in the door yelling out your name, so they can find you real quick. Take a minute and listen to their fun stories. Revel a little in their joy, it will keep you young. Now, if your tween or teen is used to doing this and for some reason stops, this should throw up a red flag. Not that it should be the only reason you suspect something is wrong, but it is a reason to check in with them immediately. Talk to them and asked them if anything is amiss and be honest, ask why they didn’t check in with you when they came home. If your tween or teen acts defensive, you have one more reason to suspect something is going on. And it’s time to have a talk with them. As teens get older, they will be going out with friends until later at night. Set a curfew and have them check in with you even if you are asleep. Give them permission to wake you up. I always told my daughter that if she didn’t, I would wake up around 3 AM and go looking for her in her bed because I would be so worried because she didn’t check in with me. Since it’s the truth, it worked for me. You will also want to model this positive behavior for your kids. When you arrive home, find them, say hello or say good night if it’s late. Let them know that they are important by reconnecting with them right after you come in the front door. When Parents Are Not Home Sometimes, kids are unable to check in with their parents if their parents are not home. This is especially true for working parents and latchkey kids. But that doesn’t mean you have to scrap the coming home routine altogether. Just change it for that particular time. So say, your child comes home from school, have them call you at work and check-in. Or, if that is not possible, have them check in with the neighbor or relative. And then keep them in the habit of checking in with you when you are home. In Conclusion I know that having a check-in routine may seem like you’re getting a little controlling when it comes to your family, but really it’s the opposite. When family members follow routines and stay connected, there is less worry. It places the control into the hands of the children. It also allows the children to feel the firm foundation of their family when they are out and about with their peers. Routines like checking-in help families be successful.

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