“My kid seems to fall apart as soon as he gets home.”
“She seems so much better behaved when she is at school.”
“Why is my child so cranky when he’s home with me after school?”
Sound familiar? It is not uncommon for children to have an after school meltdown. It takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy for children to sit still, follow directions and stay focused all day.
While it may not seem fair, it is actually a good sign that kids feel safe and comfortable enough at home to be able to let go and unwind even if it means having to deal with difficult behavior. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to help limit the severity and duration of after school meltdowns. It is worth noting that teenagers can also have trouble adjusting to the demands of the school day especially if they are just starting middle school or high school. The suggestions listed below are intended to help children of all ages.
Keep a routine: Kids thrive on structure so try to make the afternoon schedule as predictable as possible. Use a calendar or white board to list the plan of the day so they know what to expect.
Try not to overschedule: This is a hard one because it has become quite normal and acceptable for kids to participate in several after school activities starting at a young age. Try to limit one activity per day and allow time for your child to have some downtime (by themselves or a snuggle with you) for at least 15-20 minutes.
Provide a healthy snack: Kids are often very hungry and thirsty when they come home especially if they have an early lunch that day so make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks and drinks available that they can grab easily without a lot of preparation (i.e. sliced apples, grapes, carrots, cheese and crackers).
Try not to ask too many questions: Obviously parents want to know about their child’s day, but this is not the time to ask a lot of questions. Wait for them to decompress from the day, but be present. Staying in the same room while they eat their snack or do their homework will open the door to communication. When they do tell you about their day, make sure you listen attentively: make eye contact and resist the urge to multitask while they talk.
Create a homework routine: Make sure your child has a clean and organized place to do homework with adequate lighting and limited distractions. Younger children may need reminders to take breaks.
While after school meltdowns are normal, these strategies can help keep them from becoming a chronic problem. Simply making sure the basic needs of your child are met will go a long way as will the patience and understanding that your children are doing the best they can to adjust to a demanding schedule.
Any questions? Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com. Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.