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  • Writer's pictureElle James

10 Helpful Strategies to Calm After School Meltdowns

Smiling girl painting, to help calm after school meltdowns.

I vividly remember the days when my oldest son would have daily meltdowns after school. It was tough to see him struggle to keep it together, his frustration spilling out into tears and tantrums.


Each day, I wished that I knew what to do to help him.  I felt totally helpless. It was especially hard because I couldn't figure out why he was so upset coming home from school.


In those moments, I realized that the meltdowns were signs that something deeper was going on. So, I started digging into it and found out that afterschool meltdowns are actually pretty common.


Kids can get overwhelmed and emotionally drained after a long day at school, and they often let it all out when they're back home in their safe space.


Once I realized this, it was like a lightbulb went off. Instead of feeling down, I got proactive. I started learning about ways to help my son cope. And you know what? There were tons of things I could do to help him decompress and get his emotions back on track after school.


If your child is going through something similar, just know you're not alone! After a long day at school, it's common for children to come home overwhelmed and emotionally drained, potentially leading to meltdowns.


These emotional outbursts can be confusing and frustrating for both children and parents. But, it's essential to recognize that this behavior is often a result of various factors that affect children during their school day.

Keep reading to explore why children may be overwhelmed and have emotional meltdowns after school, and ten proven strategies to help parents and caregivers calm after school meltdowns.



In this article you will find:


Kids at school smiling.




Common Causes of After School Meltdowns


1. Physical and Mental Exhaustion


Imagine a day in the life of a child at school. They wake up early, spend hours engaging in lessons, activities, and social interactions, all while trying to meet academic expectations.


This level of physical and mental exertion can leave children feeling utterly drained by the time the school day is over.


Just like adults, children need time to rest and recharge, and after-school meltdowns can be a sign that they're simply running on empty.

 


2. Overstimulation


Schools can be overwhelmingly stimulating environments. There's constant noise, bustling hallways, and interactions with classmates and teachers.


After being in this high-stimulus environment for several hours, children may struggle to transition to the more calming and quiet atmosphere of home.


This shift can be jarring and may contribute to emotional meltdowns as children try to cope with the sudden change in sensory input.

 


3. Emotional Regulation Challenges


Children are still developing their emotional regulation skills, which means they may not have the tools to cope with the emotions that arise during the school day.


They might experience frustration, anxiety, or anger but not know how to express or manage these feelings effectively.


When they return home, where they may feel safe and comfortable, these pent-up emotions can come pouring out in the form of a meltdown.

 


4. Homework Pressure


The stress of homework can be a significant contributor to after school meltdowns. The expectation to complete assignments, prepare for tests, and meet academic standards can weigh heavily on a child's mind.


This pressure can be a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode once they get home and face the reality of their workload.

 


5. Hunger and Fatigue


Nutrition and sleep are crucial for a child's well-being. A child who hasn't had a proper meal or adequate rest may be more prone to meltdowns.


Hunger and fatigue can exacerbate emotional responses and make it more challenging for a child to cope with their emotions.

 


6. Unresolved Social Issues


Children's social lives at school can be complex and emotionally taxing. They may have experienced conflicts with friends, bullying, or other social issues that weigh on their minds throughout the day.


These unresolved problems can lead to emotional meltdowns when they return home and have the chance to process their feelings.

 


7. Need for Autonomy


Children often experience a lack of autonomy and control at school. They are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. After school, they may seek opportunities to assert their independence and make choices.


When parents or caregivers inadvertently restrict their autonomy, it can lead to frustration and emotional outbursts.

 

Kids at school smiling.




How to Get to the Cause of the After School Meltdowns

 

Understanding why children get overwhelmed after school is the first step in helping them manage their emotions effectively, provide appropriate support, and help calm after school meltdowns.


Begin by fostering open communication with your child, encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings about their day.


Keep an eye out for patterns and behavioral changes, as these can offer insights into potential triggers. Additionally, stay in touch with teachers or school counselors to gain a better understanding of your child's experiences at school.

 

Review their daily routine to ensure it allows for essential elements like downtime, snacks, and homework, as a packed schedule can contribute to emotional exhaustion.


Consider external stressors in their life, such as family changes or health issues, which may impact their emotional well-being.


Ultimately, the combination of communication, observation, and a supportive environment is key to deciphering and addressing the root causes of your child's emotional challenges after school.

 

Kid reading a book after school to help calm after school meltdowns.




10 Strategies to Help Calm After School Meltdowns

 

1. Create a Calming After School Routine

 

Establishing a calming after school routine is key to helping children transition from the demands of the school day to a more relaxed home environment.


Begin by setting up a designated space where your child can decompress, whether it's a cozy corner in the living room or their bedroom. Offering a nutritious snack is essential, as hunger can contribute to irritability and emotional outbursts.


The routine should incorporate some downtime activities, such as reading a favorite book, drawing, or simply listening to calming music.


By delaying homework or other structured activities until your child has had a chance to relax, you allow them to ease into their post school hours more smoothly.

 


2. Address Hunger and Provide a Nutritious Snack

 

It's important to recognize that hunger can exacerbate mood swings and emotional meltdowns.


After a long day at school, your child's energy levels may be low, making them more susceptible to frustration and irritability. Providing a healthy and balanced snack can help regulate their blood sugar levels and improve their mood.


Choose snacks that combine complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains or fruits, with protein, like yogurt or cheese. This combination provides sustained energy and helps prevent energy crashes, which can lead to emotional outbursts.


Offering a snack not only addresses physical needs but also communicates care and consideration for your child's well-being.

 

Girl eating watermelon, an after school snack to help calm after school meltdowns.

3. Encourage Open Communication

 

Effective communication is a cornerstone for helping children cope with their emotions after school. Create an atmosphere in which your child feels safe to share their thoughts, experiences, and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.


Start conversations with open-ended questions like, "How was your day?" or "What was the best part of your day?" This encourages your child to express themselves more fully.


Listening actively is crucial; give them your full attention, maintain eye contact, and show empathy by validating their emotions.


Even if you don't fully comprehend their feelings, use empathetic statements like, "I can see that you're really upset about this," or "It sounds like you had a tough day at school."


This shows your child that you acknowledge and respect their emotions, which can help them feel heard and understood.


Avoid rushing the conversation. Some children need time to process their feelings and may be more willing to talk later in the evening.

 




4. Offer Choices and Autonomy

 

Allowing your child some control over their day can help them feel more empowered and less overwhelmed.


Whenever possible, offer choices. For example, ask, "Would you like to do your homework before or after dinner?" or "Which snack would you prefer today?" These choices give them a sense of autonomy and help them feel more in control of their environment.


However, be sure to offer choices that are within reasonable limits, so your child doesn't feel overwhelmed by too many decisions.

 


5. Offer Physical Outlets

 

Physical activity can be an effective way for children to release built-up tension and emotions.


Encourage your child to engage in physical activities they enjoy, whether it's playing outside, riding a bike, dancing, or participating in a sport.


Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which can boost mood and reduce stress. It's a healthy outlet for pent-up emotions and can help your child feel more relaxed.


Mom and child roller skating, an activity to help calm after school meltdowns

6. Break Homework into Manageable Chunks

 

Homework can be a significant stressor for children. Help them manage it by breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.


Create a homework schedule that incorporates short breaks to prevent overwhelm. Encourage your child to focus on one task at a time and celebrate their accomplishments along the way.


Provide guidance and support when needed, but also encourage them to problem-solve independently.

 


7. Limit Extracurricular Activities

 

While extracurricular activities are valuable for a child's development, an overly packed schedule can lead to exhaustion and meltdowns.


Pay attention to your child's energy levels and ensure they have enough downtime. Strike a balance between structured activities and unstructured playtime or relaxation.


This balance allows your child to recharge and prevents burnout.


Boys playing soccer, and activity to help calm after school meltdowns.

 

8. Teach Emotional Awareness

 

Developing emotional awareness is a vital skill for children. Begin by helping them identify and label their emotions.


Use simple language to describe feelings, such as "frustrated," "excited," or "anxious." You can employ tools like emotion charts with various faces to help them pinpoint how they're feeling.


It's essential to explain that all emotions are valid and part of being human. Teaching them to recognize and accept their feelings is the first step toward managing them effectively.

 


9. Deep Breathing and Mindfulness

 

Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques are powerful tools for emotional regulation.


Teach your child to take slow, deep breaths when they're feeling overwhelmed.

Breathing deeply helps calm the nervous system and reduces stress. You can make this fun by incorporating games or visualizations.


Additionally, introduce simple mindfulness exercises, such as mindful breathing or body scans. These practices encourage your child to stay present in the moment, reducing anxiety about the past or future.

 


10. Model Healthy Coping Strategies

 

Children often learn by observing their parents or caregivers. Model healthy coping strategies by managing your own stress and emotions in a constructive manner.


If you encounter a frustrating situation, demonstrate how to take deep breaths to calm down or how to express your feelings openly but respectfully.


By modeling these strategies, you provide your child with practical examples of how to navigate their own emotions and challenges in a healthy way.

 

Girl meditating to help calm after school meltdowns


Final Thoughts


Weather your child has an occasional after school meltdown or struggles to regulate their emotions every day after school, remember that it is normal. After school meltdowns are common.


By understanding the factors that contribute to these emotional outbursts, parents and caregivers can provide the necessary support and guidance to help children navigate their feelings and build essential emotional regulation skills.


With patience, empathy, and effective communication, both children and their caregivers can learn to calm after school meltdowns more effectively, creating a more harmonious home environment.



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