Managing the post-school meltdown

Does your child come home from school and start “acting out” or having a melt down?

I’ve heard many conversations about this at the school gates, particularly from parents whose children are reported to follow rules well at school and always do the work asked of them. So why the aftermath that follows once they get home?

Children are less able to manage their emotions than adults; they haven’t yet had enough experiences to give them the opportunity to learn to self-regulate. But at school they very quickly learn what is expected of them, and become aware of their peers very quickly. The thought of peer pressure existing in reception is a scary one, but it exists in subtle ways.

Think about the mental motivation, emotional containment and physical restrainr needed to keep them at their best at school all day. They may want to tell the teacher to shut up, be cross when the dinner lady tells them they need to eat some more vegetables before starting on pudding and push little Johnny over when he’s taken the ball off them. But they don’t. All that energy gets stored up, like a pressure cooker until they are out of school and they can finally release it. And boy how they release it! Crying, tantrums, aggression, being disrespectful to anyone and everyone (including themselves!).

So what can you do to help them?

  1. Stop the immediate questions – if they have homework, what they ate for lunch & did they stay out of trouble can wait. Great them with a smile and a hug.
  2. Bring along a healthy snack and a refilled water bottle!
  3. Give them ‘space’ to eat and drink. Whether this is in the car journey home or a quiet walk. Be mindful of the fact their little heads have been filled with learning, paying attention and following rules. Give them space to completely decompress.
  4. Don’t make demands as soon as you’re through the door. “Do your homework”, “tidy your room”, “clean the rabbit’s cage” are all cause for power struggles and rebellion. They are not going to help an already overwhelmed child.
  5. When they do emerge ready to engage let them take the lead. Play, chat & reconnect.

My blog post “Back to school with confidence” has other ideas of how to encourage a healthy routine, both physically and mentally.

We also have a regular Friday evening Chill Skills session, to help key stage 2/3 aged children learn skills to reduce anxiety  and increase self confidence and give them tools to help stay calm and relax.


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