Being back at school, especially after such a long break, is a bit of a shock to the system for all of us. Lots of children are coming out of primary school in foul moods which is no fun for them or us as parents. Here are my top 5 tips on how to deal with after school grumpiness.
Feed Them, Quick!
Having been at home, demanding snacks roughly every ten minutes for an extended period of time, the requirement to to survive for six hours on one snack and one meal, is somewhat challenging. I would suggest arriving at school pick up with easy to eat food. For some children it may be best to place the food on the floor before they exit the classroom and back away to a safe distance, thus avoiding any injury when the leap on you to try and take it.
If feeding them straight out of the classroom isn’t an option (quite possibly you would prefer them to wash their hands first) then planning ahead so there is a snack ready a soon as you get home is useful. For children who are really hungry after school, you might want to swap dinner and snack around so they eat their main meal straight after school and have a lighter snack before bed. This can work well if they have late evening after school activities. On the other hand, adults rarely want dinner at 4pm so it isn’t very conductive to family mealtimes.
Save the Questions
When your child comes out of school, you haven’t seen them for 6 hours! For 6 whole hours they’ve been off living their life without you and you (being the nosy Mum that we all are) want to know what they’ve been up to. They, on the other hand, rarely feel like telling you. If you ask them about their day straight out of school, you’ll likely get answers like, “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember”, “Nothing” or just a grunt.
I would recommend just asking if their day was ok (in case something awful happened and they want to talk straight away) and saving the rest of the questions for later. I get much more information if I ask them about their day when we are all sat down for dinner. In fact they usually end up shouting over each other in their keenness to tell me all about it.
Give Them Time to Decompress
You may have heard people who have a long commute describing it as their time to decompress after work and make the adjustment to their “home selves”. Kids need to go through the same process after school so try to give them a bit of time before you start making demands.
For some children, they might need physical activity, like a kick around or a bounce on a trampoline to decompress, others might need a little while to slump in front of the TV. Try to let them go through their process before you ask them to do things like putting bags away, getting changed or starting homework.
Try Not to Over Schedule them
There are so many amazing activities kids can get involved in these days that its tempting to have them doing something every night after school. That might work for some kids, but certainly not all. How much after school activity your child needs can also change as they grow so look out for signs its becoming too much.
It can be hard to tell how many activities are too many. If your child seems unwilling to do even their favourite activity, they are struggling to get up in the morning or are telling you regularly that they are tired, it’s likely they have a bit too much going on.
Set Clear Expectations about Homework
There’s nothing that causes after school grumpiness like a reminder that homework needs to be done. While homework is unlikely to be your child’s favourite activity, you can minimise the impact by setting clear expectations about when it will be done.
We are lucky that my Mum lives close by and has each of the children after school once a week. This leaves me at home alone with the other so we can tackle homework undisturbed. They both know which day is their homework day and by getting it done on that day, we don’t have to worry about it on the other four days of the week.
It’s also nice if you can plan the occasional after school treat for kids. As a child, it was the memories of the occasional surprise after school outings that really stayed with me into adulthood. It doesn’t have to complicated or expensive, just taking a treat snack and a drink to the park can be lovely.
Is it More than After School Grumpiness?
If your child is more than a bit grumpy after school it might be worth exploring whether or not something else is going on. For some children, particularly those who are neurodiverse, school simply ins’t a good fit. Often they can hold it together all day but when they get home suffer from “after school restraint collapse” because they are exhausted and can’t hold it in any longer.
Unfortunately, that means that as far as the school are concerned, your child is fine, but you know different. If they are really unhappy you might need to work with the school to try and improve things or consider homeschooling.
The other reason your child might be grumpy after school is if they’re so if you think that’s the case, check out this post on sleep problems.
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