You’ve bought the school supplies, met the teachers, packed the lunches, taken first-day pictures, and sent the kiddos off to school. You think about them all day long, and when you pick them up you can’t wait to hear ALL about their day! But… when they get into the car, it’s suddenly a sea of after-school meltdowns, backtalk, grumpiness, and fighting with siblings. What gives?! My usually sweet and smiley kids have transformed into creatures from the black lagoon. Where did I go wrong? Don’t worry, Moms — it’s not us, it’s them!
However, our kiddos do need us to keep a few things in mind:
They have most likely been sitting still A LOT. While kids do have playground time and P.E. and most teachers give brain breaks, your child is most likely sitting still A LOT longer than usual. And not only sitting still but having to concentrate on what their teacher is saying, all.day.long. This can be exhausting!
They could be totally overstimulated. With 20+ kids in a class, talking, thinking, interacting, yelling on the playground, and making it through a potentially loud lunch in the cafeteria… they could just be overdone! Some children are more sensitive to the different noise levels during the day.
What can you do to help?
Remember that YOU are their safe place. As one of my fellow contributors said when this was being discussed pre-writing — YOU are their safe place. Your child knows they can melt down and be a complete fruit loop, and you will still love them. Maybe their bestie said something rude. Maybe another child laughed at them. Maybe they dropped their dessert on the floor and didn’t get to eat it, and they just need a release.
Stay calm, and don’t take it personally. It is easy to get offended or mad when your kid gives you an attitude and talks back. I let my kids know their feelings are important and valid but being disrespectful isn’t okay. We take deep breaths, and if that doesn’t work, sometimes they need a minute in their rooms to be grumpy and get their feelings out. When they are calm, we can talk about whatever they want. Sometimes it takes longer than a minute. Sometimes I take a minute, too!
Give them space before you ask all the questions. They are coming from a day of answering questions and thinking. Despite my desire to know EVERYTHING about their day, they may not want to talk! Maybe do a high/low at dinnertime or do a quick check-in to see if anything immediate needs discussed. A shared journal could also be a great way to be kept in the loop about the goings on!
Give a break before homework. Or have them do homework first while they are in school mode, then they can relax the rest of the evening, or get ready for sports, etc. You know your child best, and what will work with your schedule.
And then sometimes… it can be as simple as: FEED THEM! It really can be this simple! Most kids eat breakfast early in the morning and then only have lunch before getting home late afternoon. Some teachers have time for snack but not all do. AND a huge part of this equation is are our kids actually eating what’s in their lunch? Many times, I have opened my kids’ lunchboxes to see almost their entire lunch still in it. When I inquire the reason why, they shrug and say, “I was talking,” or “There was a good video on,” or “I didn’t like it,” or “I don’t know.” While I can’t imagine passing up food, the reality is they often don’t have much more than 20 minutes to eat, or they just aren’t in the mood when lunchtime rolls around. So, when you get them from school, have a snack ready! Hanger is a real thing. A lot can be solved with a hug and some food.
What’s your go-to routine when your kids get home from school?