When my son started preschool this year, I knew I needed to brace for after-school meltdowns. At school, children are often on their best behavior because they are in a different environment and they may not be as comfortable. After a day of keeping all those emotions in, you can imagine why kids need to get all those pent-up emotions out. According to Katie Hurley, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, “Going to school can be completely exhausting for many kids. The school day can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Young children expend a lot of energy sitting still and focusing in class. They have rules to follow, work to complete and responsibilities to fulfill.”
These are some things that I have done that have helped reduce tantrums so they don’t last as long or they aren’t as dramatic. Hopefully they can help your children too!
I learned early on that my son would be really hungry and therefore more emotional when I picked him up. For us, this is because he gets out right at lunchtime. Even though he gets a snack at school, it isn’t enough to push lunch off. I’ve found that it works best to have a drink ready to go in the car so my son can have something on the way home. On days when I am really on top of things, I have a lunch ready at home so my son can eat right away instead of waiting for me to prep something.
Another thing Hurley recommends is that children have “sufficient time to play, run and regroup.” For us, the answer to that has been digging. Often my son wants to dig right when we get home. I stay firm with making him eat (he doesn’t realize he’s hungry and grumpy—he just wants to play) and then we can go outside. Now that it’s Fall, it’s been much easier to do this as temperatures haven’t been as hot.
As you’ve heard in other posts, my son loves it when I read to him. This is a great way for him to decompress and calm down. This helps us have some quiet one-on-one cuddle time. I let him pick the books and we usually spend about thirty minutes reading. For us, it helps to have a designated spot in the house to read where books are accessible. This helps reduce distraction so we can focus on reading.
While these activities have helped us in the after school transition, my son still has meltdowns. And that’s to be expected. Although it can be hard to keep your cool when your child is acting irrationally, it’s important to set a good example. Your kids will learn from you how to cope with their emotions and feelings.