After School Difficulties?
Does your child have a meltdown after school? Do they act out, get angry, sulk or disappear to their rooms? This is known as ‘after-school restraint collapse’. Here’s why!
It takes a great deal of energy, mental motivation, emotional containment, and physical restraint to keep ourselves at our best for other people while at school; and indeed while you’re at work. I bet you have found yourself huffing at times, or taking a breath when a colleague has annoyed you. You may go off and have a coffee or go to the toilet, just to have a break. You may well find in yourself that all you want to do when you get home from work is to have some chill time, be by yourself; and to not have to talk to anyone! Whether you are at work or at school, you are under constant pressure to ‘keep to the rules’ and behave. After your child has done that all day, they just don’t have the energy to keep up this self-restraint, and it feels like a big bubble that needs to burst. And that is what can happen. Time to regroup! Children often just need to decompress when they get home. We can help ourselves, and our children, to learn ways to release the ‘restraint bubble’.
Greet your child with a smile and a hug instead of, “Do you have any homework?” or “I heard you got in trouble today.” Also don’t ask, “How was your day?” No one really wants to answer this question! Just show your delight at seeing your child again.
Allow time for your child to say their thoughts - be ready to listen; but don’t talk too much except to comment on what you see as you walk home. Try not to ask questions, as even this can be too much of a demand for an overtired child. This isn’t the time for big conversations.
Fill their physical need to have their energy tanks refilled first. Instead of asking ‘are you hungry?' Just say, let’s have a drink and snack; and set out food like veggie sticks, cut fruit, cheese, or nuts and a glass of milk or water. Real food gives them a boost rather than a sugar rush from a biscuit or sweets.
REDUCE THE HOUSEHOLD CLUTTER AND NOISE
Your child may be affected more than you know by what is in the space around them. Mornings can be hectic, but try to leave a fairly tidy house to arrive back home to.
STAY CONNECTED THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Children need connection and may really experience a sense of loss throughout the day; more so since the pandemic. Giving a child your special hanky, keyring or a special pebble to keep in their bag at school will help create a sense of connection. A post-it note in their lunch box- even if its just a drawing of a smiley face, or a special treat such as heart shaped sandwiches, will reassure them that they are never out of your mind.
PROVIDE DECOMPRESSION TIME
Let your child take the lead to talk about the day. You can say, do you want to tell me about your day - so they know you are interested. Then, when they talk, you can gently ask about any tough moments they’ve had. Every child is different and each child will respond to different things to decompress at the end of the day. Even older children need play; and yes it is therapy! Play helps children process. Give them time to do nothing, to rest. Some younger children like to wrestle, run around, or get in a tickle fight. Older ones might like to go for a bike ride. Try hanging upside down - yes, this can really help and is used in yoga a lot!
You may not feel like you have the energy, but laughing and having fun together is really the best way to ease the day’s tensions.