Flashback Friday: After School Disaster

* On Flashback Fridays, we bring you a blog post from the past!. “After School Disaster” was originally posted on October 20, 2016. Here it is again.

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We sent our oldest son to Junior Kindergarten this fall, and it has been quite a transition for the whole family. The good news is that he loves school! Every day he is excited to go, happily gets ready, and boards the school bus. He comes home with a communication book, and we are getting awesome reports back from his teachers. Things like, “He has settled right in.” and "He is making new friends/following routines etc." So what is the problem you ask? Well at the end of each school day when he climbs down the bus steps, he is happy (and exhausted). But over the course of the afternoon, things really go downhill.  By dinnertime, there has been tears over his socks bunching up or he wanted to eat with the fork with the red handle or even because his milk is too cold. During the evening, he is explosive, emotional, rude, defiant and just overall behaving in ways that are uncharacteristic for him. Initially I was really concerned because I was worried that his behaviour was a sign that school was not going well. I now have the reassurance from his teachers that they are not seeing any of the negative behaviour that we are having at home . . . so what is going on?

After doing some investigating I have discovered that we aren’t alone in this. In fact, Parent Educator Andrea Loewen Nair has written an article on what she calls the, “After School Restraint Collapse.”

She describes it as what happens when your child comes home from school or daycare and “falls apart at your feet”. The reason being that throughout the day, they have spent all their energy keeping themselves in check. This really sunk in for me.  For the entire day, my 4 year old has put all his energy into emotionally, mentally and physically being on his very best behaviour, and at the end of the day he has nothing left.

So how do we as parents support our kids through this?  Andrea has some tips, but things that have helped with our little guy are:

  • SLEEP! Adjust bedtimes accordingly. There have been some evenings where he is going to bed as early as 6:30pm and sleeping all the way through to the morning.

  • Don’t interrogate. When he gets home from school, I have to stop myself from asking questions like, “How was your day?”, “What did you do?” and “Who did you play with?” I simply greet him with a hug and say, “I’m so happy to see you!”

  • Snacks - Have a healthy snack available when they arrive home.

  • Find some one-on-one time. Even if it is just 15 minutes in the evening. We can throw a baseball, build lego, or read a book together. This is the time where he has been opening up about his day without prompting.

  • Free up your evenings. Keep any extracurricular activities, outings or visitors planned for the weekend.

  • Be consistent with expectations and consequences. Supporting our children through adjusting to something new doesn’t mean that family rules go out the window.

Hopefully with a little time and a lot of patience, we will all get through this transition together.

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 Written by Ashley Colvin, Parent Support Educator