Have you noticed your child has a bad attitude, seems defiant or having loads of tear and tantrums after school? Difficult afternoons, tough bed times, siblings squabbles, meltdowns and homework refusal can all happen as a result of after school overwhelm.
“After school restraint collapse” is a thing, according to Psychotherapist Andrea Nair. A phenomenon where children meltdown once they are home from school.
The comfort of home and your loving presence may be the trigger your child needs to let go of stored up emotions.
This is why challenging behaviors can sometimes show up as soon as your child walks in the door. Since children are emotionally immature and still growing, instead of saying “I had a really tough day mom” they might just use any small reason for complaining, telling you off or throw a big tantrum.
Listening to your child’s tears can be helpful to your child’s well-being. That being said, you can also prevent meltdowns by creating moments to reconnect after time away.
Here are 7 ways to stay connected & reconnect after a long day at school as a way to prevent after school meltdowns:
Hugs: Little ones love hugs. My three year old loves to get a giant goodbye hug that includes lots of kisses before we leave. We make sure to always have time for it, everyday, no matter what. Maybe your child is a bit older and thinks it’s not so cool to be hugged at school in front of classmates, how about hugging your child before heading out the door? Then, repeat those hugs after school too.
Bridge Items: Sometimes separating can be hard and having a little reminder of mom/dad or home can help a lot. My five year old took a small piece of paper that said “mom loves you” in his pocket on his first day of school. Later he told me “One time I felt scared of doing something new, I checked my pocket and then I felt much better trying.” A friend told me her daughter kept a small ball in her backpack that was special her first year in school. Just knowing there is that little thing that connects the child back to home can go a long way. Another way to do this is to include a note from mom and/or dad in a lunch box!
Disconnect to Connect: Ideally, try to forget emails, cell phones and errands for the first fifteen to twenty minutes when everyone returns home from school. This is a great time to be together. Make a deliberate effort to listen to what your child has to say about school and any news, stories, jokes or “you’ll never guess what!” moments. Children love to know they have your full attention and it’s very reassuring that although you were separated, now you are reconnecting.
Eat Together: Whether your child does a half day or a full day program, planning to have something to eat together even if just a small snack after time away is a great way to slow down and reconnect.
Relax: Everyone needs a little bit of down time, taking a moment to slow down and just be together, even if it’s just five minutes can make a huge difference to how the rest of the day will unfold. If you can invest a few minutes into chilling on the couch together, reading a book or simply giving each other a long hug before hurrying on to an activity you can prevent most meltdowns.
Play: At home or at the playground, taking a bike ride or building some Lego, finding time to play together is a great way to reconnect and help your child feel loved. Play and laughter is also an opportunity for children to release pent up feelings, which will surely prevent later meltdowns. Check out this list with 60 special time activities for some ideas to play together. Children also enjoy and appreciate down time to just play alone, so make sure not to over-schedule the afternoon with structured activities.
Rest: Protect bedtime and bed time routines to make sure your child is getting plenty of attention and care from you as they prepare to go to sleep. While it is tempting to rush through the bed time routine, a frazzled bed time routine is like an invitation for a meltdown. Instead, slow down, work together and see this as a time to reconnect from that time you were away.
If your child does end up melting down after school, try to validate their feelings and listen with empathy. Especially for younger children, it may be hard to verbalize all that is upsetting them but having your caring, loving presence to unload those feelings is often very helpful and reassuring.
Peace & Be Well,
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