Mastering After School Meltdowns

  Filed under: Parent Education, Parenting Tips, Therapy Ideas

School is back in session. New kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student. First-graders are getting reacquainted with their desks and new classroom routines. The big kid third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are catching up with friends, navigating the schoolyard and digging into their studies and homework. And nearly all of them are coming home and melting down, right?

I hear from many parents of elementary-age children who share similar stories about the challenges they face after school dismal. The struggle is real.

“My son is a kindergartener, and while he’s excited to go to school each day, he’s coming home exhausted and emotional,” said Allison Crumpler, speech-language pathologist and director of clinical compliance for Raleigh Therapy Services. “I know he is trying hard to sit still and pay attention during class and that takes a lot out of a new student. It’s no wonder he comes home ready to fall apart.”

It is common for children, especially for younger students, to come home mentally and physically exhausted from school. Consider your student’s day—new learnings, exciting experiences, and fast-paced transitions. Not to mention, your student may eat lunch early in the day and come home with a hungry tummy. No wonder your little one is tired and emotional and nearing the brink of a meltdown every afternoon.

Hopefully, your student will soon acclimate to the school setting and build stamina to take on school-day demands, and you’ll see her behavior improve. In the meanwhile, here are some strategies to consider as you address her challenging behaviors.

Keep quiet

Sure you want to know all about your daughter’s day and what she did in class, but better to wait a bit before you start your questions. Greet her with a simple hug and positive “hello” and then permit her time to decompress. Give her the time and space to zone out and settle in your home setting and then ask her about class.

Attack with a snack

Does your child arrive home from school starving dangerously close to entering the “hangry” zone? Face that hunger head on with a healthy snack to boost her energy and mood.

Limit screen time

It’s not a bad idea to let your daughter watch her favorite TV show to calm down upon arriving home. However, you should try to limit after-school screen time to a maximum of 20 or 30 minutes.

Avoid overscheduling

Do your best to avoid overscheduling your daughter’s afternoons. She will come home tired from a full day at school and will need free time to wind down and relax.

Make time to play

Try to find time to play with your child—coloring, crafting, tossing a ball, anything she finds fun. Your one-on-one attention will help her reconnect with you and feel less overwhelmed from her school day.

Hunker down with homework

Set up a designated space and specific time for your daughter to do her homework. She will find comfort knowing her homework routine, which will help to lessen her stress for this daily task. 

Stick with bedtime

One, if not the most important, ways for you to help your daughter navigate her new school schedule is to keep her bedtime consistent. Most 5-year-olds need 10 or more hours of sleep each night to feel well rested the next day. A well-rested child will have a leg up on a new day.


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