By Brandy Browne
Have you ever wondered why you attend your child’s parent teacher conference and hear the teacher say glowing statements about how well your child always behaves for them? Do you wonder if you two are indeed talking about the same child? Is this the same child that dissolves into a puddle of tears every day at 5:00 P.M.? What makes your child so different for you in the evenings than they behave for authority figures all day?
Soto (2019), author for Today’s Parent, describes this phenomenon as the “after school restraint collapse.” You’re familiar with it…Baylie is an angel all day for her teachers, only to scream, yell, and have tantrum after tantrum after school over everything from snacks to her siblings glancing her way to being asked to pick up her toys. Child counselors and parent educators argue that this occurs in our children because they are completely and totally physically, mentally, and emotionally spent from holding themselves together and complying with the rigorous demands of education today. Only when they are in their safe place at home can they truly release what has been building all day.
The fact that your child feels safe with you and able to be their imperfect self without fearing the loss of your love is a great thing, but what can we as parents do to combat the discord this can bring to our homes in the evenings? First and foremost, allow a safe place for your child to have the inevitable meltdown. Welcome your child with a snack or drink to replenish them, and try not to overschedule your time in the evenings. Children need downtime to unwind and decrease the amount of these meltdowns that occur. Find an activity that your child enjoys to relieve some stress. Bonus points if this activity is of the physical variety. School aged children need four to five hours of active physical play every day for their cognitive and physical development. The demands being placed on today’s teachers means that they often do not get that activity that they need throughout the day. Children that have a healthy amount of physical activity will sleep better at night and be more capable of self regulating during the day. Nature is a great source of stress relief…if you have a family garden, allow your children to dig in the dirt and play while you take care of the tasks to maintain it. If you have pets, allow your child to help walk them and play with them. Allow them to engage in sensory experiences with tactile feedback…painting, making slime, playing in mud or with kinesthetic sand. The attention given to the sense of touch will be soothing for your child.
Overall, try not to take the after school collapse personally. Your child is not acting out to be disobedient or to undermine your authority. They are merely reacting to the restrictions placed on them in the confines of the more structured classroom environment. Moreover, as parents, we WANT to be our children’s safe place. Our children have learned the lesson that different venues warrant different behaviors from them, and that is a life skill they will be utilizing for the rest of their lives.
Seto, C. (2019). After school restraint collapse is a real thing- Here’s how to deal with it. Today’s Parent. Retrieved from https://www.todaysparent.com/kids/school-age/after-school-restraint-collapse-is-a-real-thing-heres-how-to-deal-with-it/