ISLAMABAD-I am a full time working mother with a lunch break that can either be used eating or picking the kids up from school. I have to squeeze in both chores, and ensure I am home when my children come at home time. I want them to feel that if they have anything to share, their mummy is right there and they do not have to wait till late in the evening to talk about their day. When we sit down for lunch, I can immediately tell if my son had a rough day.

As mothers, we can all gauge their moods. His stressed little face breaks my heart, and for years, my first instinct has been to try to make it better. If my son tells me that his two best friends did not sit with him during reading time, I tell him it must be a coincidence, they love you so much that they cannot resist being away for too long; it will all be good tomorrow. Did not do well in your number work assessment? It is okay, you would figure it out because you are so smart.

But now, over time, I have realised what the boy really wants is for me to just listen and be there. We take undue responsibility for our children’s mood and spirit and as a result, it feels like it is our job to reset as soon as possible.

This over- protective nature of ours deprives them of experiencing skinned knees and it prevents them from being self-reliant.

They are your kids but please do not make it a hobby to control each and every aspect of their lives. Let them fail and make mistakes and then learn from them. Sometimes they are just upset because home is the soft landing, it is the place they feel comfortable enough to vent.

After a long day of following all the strict rules, being polite to all the teachers, all they need is a break and that is what you get to witness at home – exhaustion. At this point, we should acknowledge that it is not easy talking about your day. How do we feel if we have to talk about our day at work? I know I do not want to get into the details ever and I just mumbled ‘hmm, good.’ So what to do to let them express? I try and practice reflective listening, which includes showing empathy towards your children. For instance, my son comes home and is frustrated after a tough day. I would say, “Bubz, it sounds like Urdu was really overwhelming today. Is your teacher strict? ” Then he says something else, and I reflect his feelings back to him. This way he feels heard, it brings the emotion down and he can see it for what it really is. Now if your kids are upset after a long day, let them vent in a calm space. You can repeat back their emotions and validate their feelings.

You will be surprised by how well this simple approach will work. After getting things off their chest, they almost always feel better and go off to play with their toys or read a book or (true to form) beg for junk food.

One of the best parts of parenting is seeing the world through a child’s eyes. The world feels so much better and exciting. I have been a parent for almost seven years now, and I firmly believe that my son will only share his truest feelings with me, if I let him feel and know through gestures and words, that I am not just a figure of authority, but also his friend.

Parents from one school of thought feel it is not important and not possible to be friends with their children, and then there are those who feel being pals with their kids is a part of good parenting. Whatever may be your take on this, being their friend will not hurt. If you want your children to talk about their school, one more thing that I think works best is to ask the right questions: What did you eat for snacks today? How was recess time? What art work did you do? And the best one is “so, who got in trouble with the teacher today?” My son loves the last question and finds it dramatic and fun to talk about.

It helps me get into his small but smart brain and get to know him even better. So, Instead of asking them how their day was, just ask them questions that will interest them. This technique will make them talk about their day as well as vent out any negative emotions they felt during school time.

-The writer is an Islamabad based Barrister and a mom of two.