By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Does your child melt down the second he walks through the door after school or daycare? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. It’s common for your little one to be happy and talkative when you pick him up, only to have his positive demeanor flipped around when you arrive home. What causes this sudden change in behavior?
There are a few reasons. First, transitions, especially after a long day, can be difficult for children. In the car on the way home, or right when you arrive home, try giving him a small snack, such as a string cheese, raisins or apple slices with peanut butter. These choices will help stabilize low blood sugar, but won’t spoil dinner. As your child eats, find an activity you can do together to help calm him down, such as putting together a puzzle or coloring a picture. Having a consistent after-school routine can help your child know what to expect when he comes home. These activities are also good suggestions for helping your child feel you are interested in spending time with him after being apart throughout the day and can ease your child into a conversation about how his day went.
Second, it’s natural for kids to release their emotions at home after practicing self-control all day at school. They’ve spent hours sitting nicely at their desks, taking turns with other children and following directions, and when they enter the house, it’s most likely not as regimented and the emotions flow. While mom and dad might have routines and rules of the house, it’s not a public space, kept in control by teachers and other staff; it’s a place to unwind. Because of this, it can be helpful to allow your child time to be silly. Give him a “brain break.” Instead of starting homework immediately or starting the dinner/after school routine, allow him to run around outside, spend a half hour at a nearby park or practice fun yoga poses. This will encourage your child to get his wiggles out before sitting down to dinner.
Third, your child might actually need some alone time. As long as your little one is old enough to play by himself, give him space. Help him pick out a couple activities he can do on his own, such as playing with legos or reading his favorite book in a cozy corner of the room. Turn on some relaxing music, bring him a glass of water and a small snack and let him enjoy winding down. This is a good opportunity for you to start dinner or get lunches ready for the next day.
Realizing that the after-school melt-down is normal, can help you as a parent relax and prepare for a less-than-happy child after school.
It’s also important to model positive behavior for your child. If you routinely come home after work in a bad mood, your child picks up on those cues and might act in a similar way. Allow yourself time to transition from a hectic work day with activities that help you de-stress. A cup of tea, time to read, even organizing and de-cluttering can boost your mood and give you patience when you need it most!
What strategies have you found that work for helping your child push through the “after-school meltdown?”