What Is The After-School Meltdown (And How To Prevent It)

Does your little one pile in through the door at 3 pm, drop their bag and coat in the very middle of the hall for anyone to trip over, and collapse onto their bed or the sofa?

Do you get mad that they don’t say hello, drop everything for you to pick up, and give you a grunt before barking that they’re hungry? Believe me when I say that our kids come home from school worn out, mentally exhausted, and on the verge of an after-school meltdown.

They may shout, cry, give out, become needy, or angry. This is what counsellor and parenting educator Andrea Nair calls the "After School Restraint Collapse".

What Is The After School Restraint Collapse?

If we think about how we feel when we come in the door from work in the evening, we may be able to relate to our kids’ experience of coming home from school. We spend our days focused, working within rules and boundaries, and being on our best behaviour. Our kids are precisely the same in school. They sit patiently and studiously, are encouraged to focus and listen, their brains are working hard as they learn and work, and they have little time to let their guard down and simply be.

The problem with being focused on this restraint within school is that they may experience a collapse as soon as they come home from school. They let go emotionally, mentally, and physically. Kids don’t necessarily know how to navigate this coming down from a high day, so it’s up to us to help guide them and hopefully prevent a complete post-school collapse or meltdown.  

How To Manage The After-School Meltdown

Greet With A Hug And Smile

There is a lot to be said for comfort and care. A quick hug and warm smile can go a long way in soothing a child walking out of the school gates. This simple gesture reminds them that they are heading home to their safe place.

Avoid More Stimulation

When we ask what they did in school and are greeted with a "don’t know" or "can’t remember" reply as we drive home from school, our kids are overstimulated and tired. Avoid adding more stimulation to their environment and allow them to come down from their day before asking questions.

Give Them Time To Switch Off

Try not to book in too many after-school activities, as our kids need time to switch off and decompress.

Have A Snack Ready

Hunger can limit your child’s ability to focus, so have a comforting and healthy snack ready for them when they get home.

Allow Them To Vent

And if connecting and supporting your child in this way doesn’t appease a meltdown, allow them to feel their emotions so that they will learn to self-regulate with time.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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