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  • Sarina Shirazee

The After-School Meltdown

Parents often report the "after school meltdown" - kids either come home extremely volatile and emotional, or become quiet and withdrawn. Why does this happen? ⠀⠀

Firstly, the social and behavioural expectations of kids are far greater at school than they are at home. Kids have to use a lot of energy and resources to pay attention, follow directions, sit still, retain information, manage friendships, please their teacher...the list goes on. When it comes time to head home, it can be challenging for kids to conjure up the same amount of resources required to keep it together.⠀

Secondly, they've had to manage all of this without their comfort person, their primary attachment figure - their parent/caregiver. This means that once school has finished, they may feel frustrated or resentment at the fact that they were left to deal with 6-7 hours of some pretty tough stuff all on their own. Not only might they feel frustration toward their parent, they probably feel comfortable to meltdown infront of them, because despite their resentment, they know that they are safe, supported and loved. No matter how big the tantrum or meltdown, they know that their special big person will be there to pick up the pieces. ⠀⠀

So, how can you help a child experiencing the "after-school restraint collapse"?⠀⠀


• Spend an extra 5-10 mins with them before school⠀

• Send them to school with notes in their lunchbox, a picture of you, or a toy that reminds them of you⠀⠀


• Instead of focusing on the goodbye, and telling them all of the fun things they will do that day, redirect their attention to your next hello, e.g. “Have a great day – when I pick you up, shall we go to the park or library?”⠀⠀


• Give them time to relax and have a snack after school, before asking them about their day⠀

• Engage in physical activity when you get home, to give their brain a chance to switch off⠀


• Have some down time before doing homework (if your school gives homework...)⠀

• Offer understanding and empathy, rather than punishment/discipline for any unwanted behaviour⠀

Remember that while it feels hard for you, it’s harder for them. Respond as best you can with the resources you have.


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