Back to school is in full swing, schedules have returned to normal and everyone is trying to adjust. There is always an adjustment curve during this time of year and for some, it can be stressful. I keep hearing from parents, how their child is so out of sorts after school; high energy, lots of emotion and with some aggressive behaviour, even. Well, no matter what age, no matter whether your child struggles with some type disorder/disability/syndrome, this can happen to your child on any level.
My son had difficulties after school managing his behaviour. Not so much with the aggressive behaviour, however, he couldn’t seem to focus or follow any instruction. He was emotional and just flat out unreasonable. My son has a developmental disability and he always had a hard time managing transitions. It was hard for me to handle because I had been at work all day and I was tired. I still had to prepare dinner, make sure everything was set for the next day, run a load or two of laundry… The list goes on. Dealing with an unruly child just adds to the stress.
My daughter was no picnic either after school. She was my high energy child. If she wasn’t burning off steam in some way, Oh my goodness, it was like riding the crazy train. Her mouth would ramble on a thousand miles a minute, and she couldn’t stand still if her life depended on it. So I quickly needed to find a way to balance out the insanity after school. Here is what I found to work:
First, I noticed the heavy snacking my children engaged in as soon as they entered the house after a long day at school. The cupboards were raided and multiple snacks seemed to get dragged into the living room in front of the television set. Then dinner came along and no one was hungry, everyone was on an emotional rollercoaster and I was pulling my hair out!
Now, dinner is at 4-4:30pm when they get home from school. It is ready, warm and on their plates. They take off their shoes, drop their backpacks and head right to the kitchen for dinner. This way, they are eating foods that are healthy, and wholesome for them. They aren’t getting a sugar/starch rush at their most hungry time of the day. This seemed to balance out the high energy crazies and emotions that we were experiencing.
Second, I noticed my children couldn’t follow any instruction I had for them. Their listening skills were non-existent! It was driving me mad. I felt invisible, like I was talking to a wall. The kids were fine all summer, on the weekends, and even through the holidays… why not on any regular school day?
Well the answer to this is easy. Children are so controlled with rules and procedures, and following a routine schedule all day long, when they get home, their little brains just cannot take one more demand. Their brains literally shut down. You can yell, plead, and bribe your children all you want, but there is no on/off switch for their brains.
Children’s brains are wired for play. That is how they learn, develop and grow. Our education system forces children to sit still for hours on end, forces them to focus on problem solving continually, and then cramming loads of information into their brains. By a certain time of the day, children just cannot perform on that level any longer. It’s just the way it is.
So parents, stop fighting against your children, they cannot help this. Instead, here is what you can do…
Enroll them in an athletic activity after school, something very physical where they can run, tumble and play with other children. Use up that energy they have been suppressing all day long. Let them scream, and spaz-out for a while.
Take them outside and play tag with them, laugh with them, throw a ball around. Get them to use up that pent up energy.
Explore nature with them. Take them for a walk along the beach, do some gardening, swing on a tree swing, visit a petting zoo…. The natural world has a way of resetting our energy levels. Trees and plants and animals give off a natural vibration and aura that can calm and balance out our own.
Lastly, once your child has released all that energy and emotion by being allowed to get physically crazy for a while, then it is time to change direction and level things out again.
Let them take a shower or have a bath. Let them take their time to sing or play in the water. This is a great time for them to calm themselves during independent time. Of course, keep an eye on them for safety in the water, but let them play or sing on their own.
Read to them, and have quiet one on one time. Cuddle, lay together, and read or talk. Talk about their day, about things they have to look forward to or just anything that perhaps is troubling them. This is a nice calm time to do so. Then you can even help them with homework, if they have any.
WARNING!! Do NOT try to make your children do homework right when they get home from school. Give their brains a break first before you expect them to focus on anything again.
Then it should be close to bedtime. Try not to allow your children to have screen time before bed. This stimulates the brain and gets it all active again. You do not want this when it is time for bed. Frustrations will increase when you try to end their time with the electronics and it can trigger aggressive behaviour, meltdowns and temper tantrums.
This is what I did with my children and it all worked like a charm. I no longer had any issues with the children’s behaviour after school, they were more alert in the mornings when it was time to get up and get ready for school and I found my children to have more focus.
My children are polar opposites. If one wants chocolate ice cream, the other wants vanilla. So handling two complete opposite personality types is a challenge when there is only one parent; I am a single parent. But everything seemed to balance out for both my children with these techniques.
One more thing I would like to add. Preparing dinner ahead of time is key here. Whether you throw a bunch of raw food in the crock pot first thing in the morning and let it simmer all day, or you spend your Sunday afternoon cooking 2-3 meals ahead for the week, having food ready to serve a head of time can ease your load and stress a little.
Always try to see things from your child’s perspective. Take a step back, look at the day as a whole, and rationalize why your child is behaving the way that they are. There is ALWAYS a reason for their behaviour. Once you find the reason, it is easy to find a solution.
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