By now, most kids are pretty much into the swing of school. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure and stress of keeping it together all day in front of their teachers and classmates doesn’t still chip away at them, leaving some kids prone to meltdowns and off-the-charts tantrums after school. Even though it might be something small and unpredictable that sets them off, here are some tips for improving your parenting skills while navigating those stormy waters with your children.
Look for patterns. Do meltdowns only happen on particularly stressful days, when something has happened at school? Is it on nights when there’s lots of homework to be done, or there’s a ton of running around to get to activities? Maybe there’s a pattern that could be talked about during your family meeting and a new plan for working through it could be tested out.
Let them have some downtime. Lots of us parents are on the practical side when it comes to managing after-school time: unpack the backpack, get the homework out of the way, finish your chores…then you can play outside/watch tv/play on your DS. But kids, some more than others, really need a few minutes to just unwind and not have someone else telling them what to do when they get home from school. During your family meeting, talk about some variations that you can test out to see what works – maybe a half an hour of do-what-you-want time right after school before doing anything else, or maybe looking at your evening routines and letting your children have some input into how they manage their time. Some kids want and need a few minutes of privacy, where they don’t have to talk with anyone (including little siblings and parents) to help them decompress, so building in that time after school can really help too.
Check their lunchboxes. The nutrition break system often leaves slow eaters without enough time to finish their lunches before they have to head outside to play – and that can get even worse when more break time is devoted to putting on all the gear needed for a wintry day. A quick snack or just finishing what they took for lunch will go a long way to staving off the meltdowns for many kids.
Spend some time. Maybe what your kids need is a little “you” time at the end of the day. If you’re blowing in like a hurricane trying to get your evening off to a productive start, then perhaps giving everyone room to just be and reconnect before you hit the ground running again, is just what the doctor ordered.
Stay calm. And of course, no tantrum was ever improved by Mom or Dad having a tantrum too! It’s a parenting challenge, that’s for sure, but keeping calm sets the tone and models for your kids how to stay in control of your emotions even during a difficult moment. This might be the biggest tip for getting everyone back on track as quickly as possible