Back to school is a big adjustment for kids. While I knew this to be true I didn’t fully understand just how draining going to school would be for my son and after school meltdowns have become a regular event. It’s like he’s been at work all day, frankly, he has been. Too often I think that we as adults forget just how difficult it can be to be a child.
This is my son’s first year in elementary school and my, oh my, how different it has been from pre-K. We are only on week three and so far he has had many life-changing experiences. He has had to learn to switch classes, with the help of a teacher of course but regardless there are many classes including PE, Art, Music, Guidance, Media, and Library. Each day is something new and switching classes is just part of school life. Looking back at it from the adult standpoint we know this is nothing new. However, looking at it from the kindergarten stand point this is some pretty big responsibility. That hallway looked so big the first few days of school, he cried the first morning that I dropped him off without walking him to his classroom. In just a few short weeks my son has had to memorize numbers and login information, he’s ridden the school bus, he’s learned the difference between a period and exclamation point and he’s having to learn that there are consequences that can’t easily be written off. Then when he comes home the work doesn’t end because homework comes home with him. That is a drastic change from life as a toddler. The freedom of summer is behind him and responsibility is what the future holds.
When he steps off the bus his face is lit with excitement but when the door to our house has had a chance to close and the bus has driven away he melts down into my little baby again, “today was tough” he tells me. He’s worn out, physically, emotionally and mentally. So I know that it was. It was a tough day for a little boy. Yet, I’m having to remind myself that this little boy is growing up and I’m having to remind myself that is a good thing. The teacher and I are to be on the same page, we are working to help my little boy become a young man one day. Up until now, my role has been to love him and to discipline him, to guide him along the right path, to teach him kindness and understanding. Now, my role is changing also. It’s still to be those things but now someone else is working along side me to help him as well. So after school, my routine begins with a giant bear hug as the weights of the world fall off of him.
In the moment when I’m holding him tight, I can literally feel him melt into my arms as he breaks down in tears. Burdens such as being on yellow, not talking unless you’re told, the alphabet test on Friday and standing still in line seem to just fall off of his shoulders and it reminds me of the verses in the Bible where the LORD tells us to give our burdens to him. Those burdens that my son carries with him during the day are nothing to me, they are just child worries that compared to a mortgage have no weight. Yet to him those worries are keeping him from enjoying life the way that he desires. My role as a mother now becomes showing my son the love of God, even more so than I have before. It’s like he’s been on guard all day, careful to not mess up and then when he is with me, he can let his true colors shine. He can show me that he’s still weak.
Now, if I were to start yelling and screaming that he was on yellow or red instead of green, he might not feel as if he could come to me about his day. He might not melt into my arms, he may storm up the stairs in anger. I wouldn’t put that past him for a second. By listening to the choices that he made and talking through them and helping him see that there were other choices that could have been made, by loving him in the right and in the wrong, he comes to me. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the meltdown and so I’m reminded that my Heavenly Father is okay with my meltdowns also.
My Tips For Calming The After School Meltdowns
Hug Your Children
When he gets off the bus I allow him to be the “cool kid” I don’t hug him right away. He needs to bounce around and yell goodbye to his friends. He needs to skip his way up the driveway as if his day was worry free. He needs his friends to see that he’s okay. He needs to feel that small sense of pride. However, pride does go before the fall… so when the bus has driven away and there is no chance that anyone can see him I bend down on my knees and hug him.
Let Your Kid Cry
This simple act of a hug seemingly reminds him that he is still my little boy and so he melts down. He just cries. He cries that he is on yellow, he cries that the day was long and that the playground was wet. It’s a mixture of hurt and anger and I allow him to just let it out.
Give Them A Snack
When the tears seem to stop I help him take off the backpack and point him into the direction of the table for an afternoon snack. This is also the time we do his homework. Without a snack, he wouldn’t have the energy to work anymore and without the meltdown, he wouldn’t have the willpower. So I feed the boy.
While he’s at the table eating I join him and we just talk. I listen to him tell me all about his day and truth be told, I don’t understand much of it. Who knows what half of the other students are named, I don’t know what the morning song is either. What I do know is that as we do his homework together and eat pudding cups I’m listening. This is bond building and I’ll accept it.
Create A Calm Environment
Home should be a haven. Your children should feel safe. It should never feel that you or your kids are living on edge. When I was a working mom I desired that haven of rest. I strive to give it to my husband when he comes home and it’s vital for my children to find peace in our home as well. Life doesn’t have to be filled with ball practice and dance recitals. It can be, if you want that, for us though we crave the moments of quiet. So a calm environment is what we create. It’s a chance to build lego creations, a chance to color, to fold towels, to read a book. It’s a moment to unwind.
Establish A Routine
Another key tip to calming any meltdown is to establish a routine. If your child were to have just had a meltdown and then runs off to play, the moment you say “put your shoes on let’s go” would turn into a battle. By establishing the same routine or a similar routine each day you are eliminating that extra chance for another meltdown. Subconsciously you are teaching the child’s brain that after one task has finished another one begins and your little one will soon stop fighting you and melting down about the task altogether. By the way, routines are great for the morning too. Check Out Our Morning Routine!