We had just arrived home after a challenging road trip. My oldest son was sick and upset the whole way home, the baby wanted to nurse endlessly, and on top it all off, we had been driving in terrible traffic.
My happiness reserves depleted around the 200 km mark into our 450 km trip. I was in survival mode from then on. When we pulled up to our driveway, I basically fell out the car door.
My daughter, on the other hand, bounded from her booster seat. She was spritely. Her eyes sparkled. As my husband and I unpacked the car, she raced to the mailbox and looked up at our box with elation.
She was antsy with anticipation because the mail contained a letter that told us whose class she would be in next year. As my husband ripped open the envelope, she shook with anticipation. She squealed as she found out who her teacher was. Honestly, I doubt there’s an answer she wouldn’t have been happy with. Now, she has a countdown of how many more sleeps until she’s back to school.
While her excitement about school has absolutely captured my heart, I’m bracing myself a bit too. You see, school has been both the best and worst of times for my precocious child. My daughter gives school her all. As such, she comes home fried.
I remember the first time I picked her up from preschool. I had been counting down the minutes until I could go get her. While I was thrilled to be reunited with her and hear all about her day, she was irritable and despondent. As preschool carried on, I began to brace myself for anger, tears, and difficult behavior.
Three years into this endeavor, I have become much more proficient at getting ahead of after-school meltdowns. Below you’ll find the 5 most practical strategies I use to get ahead of after-school meltdowns. They’re practical, easy, and powerful, too!
1. Get their blood sugar up fast.
If you think about it, by the time you pick your child up from school, it has been hours since lunchtime. I typically choose snacks that contain fat, protein and carbohydrates, to give my kids the energy they need. These Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Bites have all of these macronutrients. For other great after-school snack ideas, check these out.
2. Feed them right away.
Whether it’s in the car or on the walk home, get food in them right away. This is the most crucial way to get ahead of meltdowns.
3. Weather permitting, go play outside.
Even if the curriculum in your child’s class is one hundred percent play-based, school takes a lot of self-regulation. Getting outside and having time for unstructured free-play is a great way to ease the transition from school to home.
4. Plan for a quiet time activity.
Whether it’s doing puzzles, coloring, or reading to your kids, quiet activities are a great way for kids to get down time and reset. Moreover, research has found that coloring has benefits similar to meditation. According to the American Art Therapy Association, coloring decreases anxiety and manages emotions.
5. Avoid screen time.
It may be tempting to turn on Disney Junior or hand your children the iPad, and doing this once in a while isn’t a bad thing. However, using technology to regulate emotions actually works the opposite way we intend it to. Namely, screen time has been shown to increase stress reactions and decrease mental reserves.
I hope these tips help you with after-school meltdowns as much as they’ve helped me!
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