Jenna is a kindergartener who loves school. She enthusiastically goes each day and is one of the more engaged students in the class. By all accounts, her first month of kindergarten has been a huge success and her parents are relieved and happy that all is well at school.
But once Jenna gets home, things get a bit out of hand.
Jenna’s mom reports that afternoons have become very tough at their house. Jenna happily comes home from school and then spends the next three hours losing it. Anger, frustration, and tantrums are a daily after-school occurrence, leaving Jenna’s parents to wonder what is going on.
After school meltdowns, especially in the early years of school, are really common. Why? Because being at school takes lots of energy. Listening, following the rules, navigating social situations, and learning new things is hard work. Think of how you feel after a full day of meetings. You’re ready for a glass of wine, right? Well, your child doesn’t have that option.
So what options DOES your child have? For starters, establish an after-school routine. Perhaps your child gets home, has a snack (very important as being “hangry” doesn’t help things), and then watches a show for 30 minutes. This consistent routine will give the afternoon some structure and that will be calming for your tired and overstimulated child. Make sure to give lots of snuggles to reestablish a connection with your child during this time.
Next, you might consider making a menu of calming activities that your child can choose from while you tend to other things (siblings, dinner, etc). This menu could include quiet time in a room of your child’s choosing (maybe looking at books or playing with toys). Your child could also play with a sibling, do crafts at the table, or play outside. Regardless, make a list of all possible activities and help your child make a plan.
Even with all of these supports in place, your child may still act out. Establish some rules and try to be patient. Let your child know that, even though you know she is tired, she cannot treat others ( including you) unkindly. Refer back to the plan you made and try to redirect her to the list of calming activities.
Lastly, as the day winds down, make sure you have a solid and consistent bedtime routine. Early bedtimes are not a bad thing, so start the bedtime routine right after dinner. Maybe its dinner, bath, books, and then bed. No matter what you’ve established, keep it consistent, calm and positive.
Going to school isn’t the carefree experience it once was. Even if your child loves it, school is exhausting. Still, after-school meltdowns can be drastically reduced with a few consistent routines. Try it for a few weeks and you should see a big difference. Think of it as teaching your child ways to relax and de-stress, much like your glass of wine or gym time.
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