The after school attitude can be really tough!
It’s a Friday afternoon and I am picking up my son from school. I bump into a friend and ask how the first week of school is going, is her daughter loving school and how are they managing. My friend takes a deep breath. She says ‘I think she is going well, but I’m not sure. Her teacher says she is doing well in class although at home she is driving me crazy. She argues with me all the time and picks fights with her brother and cries over the smallest things. I just don’t get it’.
It reminds me of last year when my son started kindergarten. He loved school and did really well although at home was really emotional over things that wouldn’t normally phase him, he was frustrated and was testing the boundaries. I remember asking his teacher how he was going and she said he was going great, yet he would fall apart at home.
I tried setting more boundaries, more consequences although it didn’t work. Sitting back, I realise that when things get hard, we take it out on the people we feel most safe with!
Just imagine you have had a hard day at work or have heard horrible news, you’re able to keep it all together. But as soon as you go home or are with people you feel safe with (husband, mum, friend) you let it all out.
Kids do the same thing. It takes a great deal of emotional and mental effort to follow the rules throughout the day, especially for little kids.
There are possibly numerous times throughout the day that kids have had to hold in their emotions. This restraint builds and builds, kind of like a balloon. Then they come home to their safe place, and POP! They can finally let loose and stop having to restrain themselves.
They get to let it all go.
As a parent this is really hard to deal with. But honestly, it’s a good thing that they feel safe enough to let it all out. To fall apart.
So what are some ways that we can help our children deal with the transition from school to home so that it is not so much of a struggle and they don’t get so frustrated.
1. Greet without all the questions
When you see your child after a long day at school, you want to know how their day has been. So you ask questions like ‘how was your day?’, ‘did you make new friends?’, ‘what did you learn?’, ‘what did you do?’ Kids can often feel bombarded as soon as they walk through the door, being grilled with lots of questions about their day.
Our days are so busy that sometimes this leads to immediate questions like what homework needs to be done and checking off other tasks that need to be completed. Most kids need time to wind down and zone out before discussing their day.
By asking a ton of questions, we could add stress to our child, especially if they have had a hard day. Instead, when you greet your child, you can say things like ‘Hey, welcome home’, ‘it’s good to see you again’. Then ask, ‘Do you want to tell me about your day now or at dinner?’ This gives him the power to decide when to talk.
When your child talks about their day, ask open ended questions like:
- “What was your favourite part of the day?”
- “What kinds of things did you do at school today?”
- “Who did you play with today?”
- “What new thing did you learn today?”
- “What made you smile today”
- “If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?”
Try to ask questions that can’t be answered with yes or no. These prevent one worded answers like ‘nothing’ or ‘fine’ and opens up a conversation about school.
It is so important to connect and ask although needs to be at a time when your child is ready.
2. Meet their basic needs as soon as they come home
Feed them! Hangry (angry because you’re hungry) is a actual thing. When our blood sugar gets low and our tummies grumble it’s understandable that we can get cranky.
When your child gets home, have healthy snacks that will give them energy and fill them up. Some ideas are fruit, veggies , yoghurts , nuts, and of course a big glass of water. When your child’s stomach is full, they are less likely to be frustrated and angry.
3. Allow for downtime
Give kids time to be kids. Allow them to have time to play and relax. Children need to play, it’s how they process their world and handle their stress. So, especially on stressful days, it’s important that they get time to play.
What is it that your child needs? Does he need time alone to unwind? Is your child a mover and needs to run, jump, and play? Whatever their play needs are, give them the time and space. My son loves Lego and writing and my daughter loves colouring in, drawing and imaginative play. So I make sure I allow time for them to just unwind, relax and play after school.
4. Be consistent with rules and consequences
When the kids have had a hard day, it can be difficult to follow through with rules and boundaries. It is so important to be consistent with your rules and consequences. Children thrive when they know what is expected of them, so try and keep home life as routine and as normal as possible.
5. Have a homework routine
Try to prevent meltdowns abut homework by creating a space to do work and try to do homework at the same time each day. Setting a timer and having regular breaks and stretches can really help.
6. Have a bedtime routine
Rest is vitally important and something all kids need to function appropriately. Protect bedtime and bed time routines to make sure your child is getting what they need from you as they prepare to go to sleep.
While it is tempting to rush through the bed time routine, a stressed bed time routine can result in meltdowns and upset.
Aim to slow down, work with your child as they get ready for the end of the day. Ordinary tasks like getting into pjs, brushing teeth and talking / reading is the ideal time to bond and end the day on a positive note.
Your child has not seen you or been home all day so sometimes switching from school routine to home routine can be difficult. They may be feeling insecure, therefore can push the boundaries and become overly emotional.
The best way to overcome this is to connect! Find a way to spend one on one time with your child. It doesn’t have to be hours, 10 -15 minutes will be fine. Forget about your jobs and your to do list, connect with your child.
This is not the time to question your child about their day. This is the time to be present, to play, to connect. Let your child decide how to spend this time and enjoy it with them.
Filling your child’s attachment tank is the best way to handle negative behaviours. It tells your child that you’re here, you’re safe, and you think they’re important.
My daughter starts school next year and I’m a little nervous that she will come home and fall apart. But, I think I am ready for it this time. I can see that it is normal, it’s good that they feel safe and there are things that I can do to help them through this transition.
I would love to hear your tips and ideas that have helped your family when managing the after school attitude. Feel free to post in the comments below