How To Handle The After-School Meltdown

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“At 5:15 a.m. yesterday morning, my 7-year-old woke up anxiously for his first day of 2nd grade. He ate his breakfast, watched a little TV, got dressed, and agreeably took his ‘First Day of School’ obligatory pictures for me.

Boy ready for first day of school
Courtesy of Holly Dignen

Although he was anxious, he knew exactly what to do yesterday morning. However, the evening was a disaster. I did everything I could to help prepare for the after-school meltdown, but it just wasn’t enough.

Snacks were ready.

Drinks were ready.

Dinner was cooking and ready a little after 5 p.m.

We limited screen time.

We took a walk.

We played with friends.

None of that mattered because the problem was not about being hungry or needing outside time with friends. The problem was that my son was exhausted.

So, I started getting him ready for his shower and bedtime routines, medicine/vitamins, and one more snack (because growing children love their snacks).

I lay with him in bed, read a book for about 2 minutes, and he was fast asleep.

Sometimes, the meltdowns happen because being tired can make one delirious, cranky, and sometimes mean. Ask any mom: we’ve experienced it ourselves.

While his attitude and behavior frustrated me completely, for the most part, I kept my calm and just talked to my son about everything. Occasionally, I got extra frustrated and raised my voice because being patient in times like this is extra hard. Then, I remembered that when I’m tired or hungry, I’m not always the nicest person either.

The after-school meltdown happens to most kids at some point. Let empathy guide you into the right choices for your children. Listen to what your child is saying in order to find the problem. Then respond to the problem, not the behavior. I’m going to be super honest, I don’t always respond to the problem, I sometimes react to the behavior instead. When that happens, it makes the situation that much worse.

Fire cannot put out fire, but water can.

Yelling because your child is having a meltdown usually just adds to the problem. Trust me, I know this one. Taking a few deep breaths, keeping quiet, or talking in a calm voice makes a difference. When your child starts to regulate their emotions, they will be able to actually listen and understand what you have to say.

The first few weeks of school can be extremely tough with adjusting to new schedules, new teachers, and even some new friends. We have to let our kids ride it out and be the safety net for them to fall into when their emotions take over. It’s not easy. Having patience is extremely hard. In fact, it takes practice, and mistakes will be made. All we can do as parents is try our best and love our babies.”

Mom puts hand on smiling son's chest
Courtesy of Holly Dignen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Holly Dignen. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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