• Your Child's Tantrums After School: Should You Be Worried and How to Handle

    Going to school can be completely exhausting for kids so after-school meltdowns may be expected.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Your Child's Tantrums After School: Should You Be Worried and How to Handle
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  • Your bubbly, active preschooler leaves the house with a smile on her face but as soon as she arrives home, she has a scowl on her face and no amount of coaxing would make her open up. She’s whiny, cranky, and miserable. To top it off, she is having a full-blown tantrum about the smallest thing. You’re left speechless wondering what the heck happened.

    Well, school happened. Going to school can be completely exhausting for kids — they spend a lot of energy self-regulating or trying to sit still and behaving. They have rules to follow and school work to accomplish. But at home, they can do whatever they like whenever they feel like it. For a preschooler, this contrast can be confusing, not to mention taxing.

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    “When their bodies are craving either rest or outdoor play, many children are stressed by the need to stay alert and maintain ‘good behavior’,” explains Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, to Romper. “Children are often emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, and their growing ability to regulate their emotion simply starts to deteriorate.”

    Kids tend to save their most difficult behavior for their parents, according to Katie Hurley, a child psychotherapist and parenting educator in Los Angeles, California. That’s because they expect you to help them understand their emotions and show them the love they crave for (even if they can’t express it yet). Here’s what to do when your child starts having a meltdown after school:

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    1. Give them space.

    Our instinct is to ask our kids about their day and what activities they did in school. If your child is in a sour mood, don’t pressure her to open up. Instead, start with a bright smile and a cheery greeting like, “I’m so happy to see you!” suggests Hurley. Then, wait for them to respond. If they do, then you can heave a sigh of relief. If they don’t, or if they reply with a snarky tone, just keep calm and don’t add fuel to the fire. Getting angry will only make your kids explode even more.

    2. Feed them.

    If you ever get “hangry” (hungry and angry), then you can bet your kids also feels that way at the end of the day, too. But avoid giving them sugar-filled treats. “Parents often unwittingly give children snacks that cause a spike in blood sugar, thus making the problematic behavior worse,” says Manly.

    3. Don’t make them do homework just yet.

    They’ve just spent half a day in school so the last thing they want to do is to start on more school-related stuff when they get home. Give them an hour or two to decompress and invite them to engage in free play. Avoid screen time if you can and focus on quiet activities like doing puzzles or coloring. You can also take them out for a walk if they really need to blow off some steam.

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    4. Leave them notes to read while in school.

    The truth is that our kids miss us when they’re in school, especially when they’re placed in stressful situations and their parents are not there to comfort them, according to Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist and author of Discipline Without Damage: How To Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up. A good way to make your presence felt is to write them notes and slip it into their lunchbox. It’ll put a smile on their face when they read it and hopefully the good mood will last them until the end of the day.

    5. Show your love when they’re ready.

    Despite their undesirable behavior, children crave lambing from mom and dad. Open your arms up for a hug or hold their hand, but don’t force them when they’re not ready. But make your presence known — make eye contact and listen when they talk. Children need someone to listen to them while they put a handle on their feelings and problem-solve.

    Meltdowns do not mean that you’re a bad parent, nor does it mean that your child is someone who can’t be disciplined. Be patient and model calmness — this too shall pass.

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