School days are getting longer, families are frequently paying the price. Six year olds come home from school completely wiped, having spent all of their ability to cope socially, physically, intellectually and emotionally, at school. That leaves caregivers and siblings to bear the brunt of the student’s exhaustion.
Some parents marvel, after chatting with the teacher, that their darling child is so well-behaved at school and then falls apart at home. A lot of the time, these kids have used up the skills they need to hold it together. You can ask a long-distance runner if she can run ten miles, and the answer is yes, but not right after running a marathon.
A few ideas to help ease the transition home:
- Create a safe, calming spot for re-entry. Put a beanbag someplace out of the way. Follow your child’s lead on this– some will want to be where they can still see what’s going on, others will do better in an entirely separate space. Add a few relaxing items, such as favorite books, stress balls, silly putty or a reliable stuffed animal.
- Play a breathing game on the way home. Bring a straw with you and hand it to your child. Breathing through the straw can help your child slow down and reset. For some kids, chewing gum has a similar impact– particularly if your child can blow bubbles.
- Get some calories on board. In some schools, lunch is before 11:00 am, and dismissal is close to 4:00. Those kids are so hungry they no longer know they are hungry. Have easy to eat snacks available.
- Work in outside time. If your child takes the bus, try to go for a walk soon afterward. If you pick up your child, park a little ways away from the school so you have a chance to walk outside after a long day of being inside. When the weather allows, you can even put the calming spot outside.
- Relax. Your child has had to meet expectations all day. There will be time for homework and chores later, but first allow downtime.
After initially sharing this post, someone mentioned the most obvious thing of all– reconnect. If you can’t do any of the things on this list, (or even if you can!) just taking time to snuggle together can make all the difference. Some kids can go straight to snuggling, others need a little more space before they are ready.
Of those ideas, the most important one is the last one. Under no circumstances should you get into a power struggle over whether or not your child will go to his calm place, or blow in a straw. Let your child be the boss during this transition. It will set the stage for cooperation later in the evening.