After School Meltdowns Driving You Crazy?


Does it ever feel unfair that you drop off a smiling kid at school and pick up a hot mess? That school gets the “best” of your kid. The hope of a child skipping out of school, smiling from ear to ear is replaced with whining, complaining, anger and tears. This triage of physical and emotional needs can be overwhelming if you are not prepared for it. And, our responses can be less than ideal at times, as well. So, what are these meltdowns and how do we reclaim our delightful afternoons with our kiddos?

Meltdown Insight #1

School demands a lot from our children. They are constantly under pressure to follow rules. There’s no end to the visual and auditory stimulation. Social conventions allow for little emotional processing. They have held it together all day at school and home is a safe place to let go. 

This may be more pronounced if you have a highly sensitive child, a child with ADHD, or even a child that didn’t sleep well the night before. Factors like dehydration can play a role and something as simple as drinking water can be tricky for kids to navigate as getting water, drinking water, and using the bathroom all have rules, processes, and requirements associated with them. 

Meltdown Insight #2

Let’s not forget that they are learning for hours! Learning takes a lot of energy and they just flat out run out of energy for emotional regulation. This is often why they are hungry after school. 

Meltdown Insight #3

Your child feels safe with you and at home so they let the mask slip away and don’t worry about keeping a lid on their emotions. If we can shift our perspective to see this meltdown as a release and a reset, we can plan for it and provide a safe space for our kids to slough off the day. 

As adults, we can empathize with our kiddos. We know what it is like to have a jam-packed day, where everyone wants something from you, you don’t feel like you have a moment to breathe, and you’ve produced all day long. 

What do you need after a day like that? What might your kid need after school? 

It doesn’t take much to have a bit of a reset after school, especially when it’s done with intention. Take time to learn what may work for your child. Ask them or try some of the options below. 

  • Sensory Break: You can do this in your car for the drive home or at home. It can be as simple as slipping on a weighted eye mask and using noise-canceling headphones. No talking. No music. Just darkness and silence for 10-20 minutes. If you can recline the seat in the car, even better. 
  • Sensory Soothing: Some need a soothing sensory experience. This can be rubbing their hands across soft fabric. Dipping their hands into containers of dried beans or rice and letting it run through their fingers. Soft music. Lying on the floor. 
  • Energy Release: Sometimes, we need to help the energy get out of our systems and encourage us to breathe deeply. Mini trampolines allow us to bounce and stimulate the lymphatic system. Swing sets stimulate the inner ear and create a rocking sensation. Deep muscle work can also feel amazing which could be lifting heavy objects, hammering nails, or digging. 
  • Creative Release: School is often very logical and linear and creative expression is the needed outlet. You can combine art with many other releases as well. Perhaps it’s quiet coloring. Maybe it’s dancing and painting. 
  • Grounding Release: Being in nature and being barefoot in grass and dirt are grounding to our sense of being. Even just seeing pictures of nature can help us relax. Perhaps it’s a few minutes at the field running, walking, rolling around without shoes or sitting under the shade of a tree staring off into space. 

While no parent wants to feel like their child’s dumping ground, I encourage you to build some time in after school to help them release the day’s tension. Talk about it and teach them how to listen to what their body needs and what will help. This means taking a few minutes between school and sports or homework. This means not asking a lot of questions the moment they get in the car or walk in the door. 

And, it also means you may be able to do it with them. Imagine how much better everyone will feel with an afternoon reset. Don’t forget that you’re teaching them valuable life lessons about listening to their body and the importance of daily self-care.

We’d love to hear from you and how you’re handling the afternoon meltdowns with love and intention! 



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