Settling back into the routine of the school year can be stressful, especially when balancing work, household chores, and activity schedules. As parents rush through the day, coping with the change, it can be difficult to also manage our children’s behavior.
Studies show that children are often anxious about the return to school, and when you combine that with the long, physically draining hours away from home, it can result in big emotions. Parents may bring their child, smiling, out of the classroom, only to experience a meltdown as they get in the car. There’s a name for the “after-school blues”: after-school restraint collapse. It’s a normal response to changes in environment and routine, and it means that your child is releasing their emotions in their safe place: you.
The good news is, after-school restraint collapse typically subsides as children adjust to change! Meanwhile here are some tips to help your child through the transition.
Empathize. Instead of reciprocating, keep your cool and be a safe place for your child to express their emotion. “Did you have a difficult day?” “It’s going to be okay.” “What can I do to help you feel better?” “What was something you didn’t like about today?” “What was something good that happened today?” “I love you, even when you’re upset. Let me know when you’re ready to talk.”
Redirect. It goes without saying that redirection is a well-used tool in a parent’s box of tricks. “Would you like to snuggle or read a book together when we get home?” Get outdoors and get some fresh air to stimulate the “happy” chemicals. Have a tickle fight or draw some pictures together. Your child may have missed you throughout the day, and some quality time together is a great form of redirection!
Bed Time Routine. It’s important to get into a normal routine as soon as possible. Early and consistent bedtimes and wake times. Quality sleep is essential to children’s emotional wellbeing. The Sleep Foundation recommends infants get 12-15 hours of sleep, toddlers get 11-14 hours of sleep, preschoolers get 10-13 hours of sleep and school-age children get 9-11 hours of sleep a night.
Organization. When we are unorganized, our stress inadvertently affects our children, and we end up pushing them out the door or dragging them to and from our appointments. Prepare ahead of time to give you and your child breathing room, and so that you can have “joy in the journey”. Set your children’s clothing out the night before. Have a “go-to” place for them to keep their jackets, shoes and backpacks. Have a designated “homework” nook or desk for older children. Do a twenty-minute full family clean up time before bedtime to help you stay on track. “A place for everything and everything it its place.”
Welcome Object. At Sonnet Montessori, we invite your child to bring a “welcome object” to our school! This means a wooden or brass figure (which the child can polish at school) or a plant from an approved list of safe classroom plants (which the child will tend at school). This gives your child something to look forward to, something to be responsible for, and a personal connection to the classroom.