So this is how my son comes home: He smiles as I greet him and by the time we are in the house, that smile vanishes and is replaced by a grim expression. The one I fear most. Why? That expression spells ‘After school Meltdown‘ and says that I am ready to cry on a drop of a hat, that’s why. He is literally looking for an excuse to cry and yell. If he does not find one at home, he will recall something that happened earlier, during the day, at school. Either way, I am going to spend next forty minutes trying to soothe him.
This was pretty much our routine till recently. As much I awaited him, I dreaded the time when I had to just console him and try to put some sense in his head. But then one fine day, I decided to put an end to the after school meltdown and that got me digging into possible reasons for it. Some of the reasons I discovered, after careful deliberation and introspection, are:
- Fatigue: One of the main culprits behind after school meltdown is fatigue. Young children get tired with school routine just as much we get tired from office. We might not realize it, but school is real hard work for these little kids. Expecting a tired child to be on best behaviour is little too much!
- Empty Tummy: Heard of the word ‘Hanger’? Well it means empty tummy leading to angry mood. Children are very much susceptible to hanger. Most young children are poor eaters, at least at school which make them really hungry by the time they reach home. Not knowing any better or asking for food, they resolve to crying leading to post school meltdown.
- Emotionally drained: This one plays a pivotal role behind the meltdown. Children lack emotional control. But at school they are expected to behave in a certain specified way. This leads to emotional build-up. There might be a friend they had had a spat with or they fell hard while playing or could not eat when they were really hungry etc etc. There are hundreds of reasons like that…the thing we call rules and discipline. All these constraints bear on their emotional bucket and really empty it out. As a result, they are all ready to cry and whine when they see their parents.
- Safe Place: With all the above factors at play and no safe place to vent them out, what really happens is that all that negative energy gets bottled up. So the moment a child sees a safe place where she/he can empty it…POP! And that place, needless to say, is home.
Now that we understand the psychology behind their behavior, it becomes easier to turn it around. Here’s are a few ways you can get past the after school meltdown
1. Greet your Child: When your child comes home instead of asking him how was his day, hug him and tell him how happy you are to see him back home. Keep your questions aside for sometime and address your child’s heart and his unmet needs. This will take care of his emotions right away and start filling his bucket up.
2. Help unwind with a Routine: My son does not like to change or eat lunch straight away. So what we do instead is play. Allow your child to unwind himself in her own way…it could be playing, taking a little rest or even watching television. Avoid enforcing rules when your child comes home. Let her enjoy the freedom after hours of discipline and regulations. This would really help her to get back to her calm self.
3. Be Present: This one is really important. While your child was away at school he missed you every time he heard a ‘NO’, followed an instruction he did not want to follow and when his friends were mean to him. Make up for this lost time with your presence. You don’t really have to engage in a conversation. Just be present! Listen to what your child has to say and be empathetic.
4. Feed them up: Hungry tummy is no good to kindergartener’s mood. Remember, it is one of the reason why your little one was acting up in the first place? After a sense of calm has come, it is time to fill that empty tummy. You don’t want another meltdown because of hungry tummy.
5. Let it out: Sometimes nothing helps. And the best way to deal is to let those negative emotions and frustrations out. Discount your child for his post-school attitude. It does not define him. What will define him is how you handle his attitude.