Behaviour

My Kids Lose It After School! Letters from the parenting coach

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Dear Alison,

I know you’ll have effective ideas for me because I remember how good your workshop ones were. You helped me see how important the connection with my son is. I would like to move a step forward by asking specifically – How do we as parents and caregivers adjust to and cope with children who are new to the school system? Those children who come home utterly exhausted, showing new behaviors or emotions that have never been present before.

How can we guide them and be completely available to their needs when we only see them just in the evening? The needs we aren’t available to fulfill during the day. It can be hard to accept the changes in personality and behaviors in our children when we have laid a strong foundation already. I’ve worked really hard at it. He has a fantastic teacher and there is great communication between us, so that is not an issue. So far, I have found alone time after school, one on one and making sure he eats well when he gets home helps, but the extreme melt-downs can be heartbreaking.

Hannah LaHeartbreak

They Miss Us Too!

Dear Ms. LaHeartbreak,

You are not alone and you are enough.

The first few months after school entry—or even the first few years can be hard on our little nippers. I haven’t heard from a parent yet who claims their child skips in the door and begins playing, without first needing to blow off some steam.

You’re already using three of my top recommendations for this period immediately following school/daycare. Why did our moms have fresh-baked cookies ready when we came home from school? Perhaps it was to calm our “hangry” behaviour! It’s hard to have the meltdown when nibbling a melty treat. So wise and wily, those moms of ours!

Reconnecting

I love that you are deliberately creating opportunities to connect with your son while he grows accustomed to school. Our kids really do need that extra time with us to help soothe the hyper-vigilant part of their neurological system. Stay close and allow their emotions to express (in a healthy way). Don’t try to make them feel better, or fix their big feelings.

They miss us terribly during the day, especially at ages four-six years. Even when they don’t verbalize it. Add to that a full school day of formal academics and limits on their physical movement, and we see the full-blown effects at home. Did you know that children in one of the top-performing countries for education (Finland) start school at age seven? Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Be there with a “listening” ear.

That being said, this system is what we’ve got. The best we can do as a primary caregiver is to offer extra downtime and free play in the afternoons. This provides precious time to follow their body’s cues, to process their emotions, and to reset.

Keep offering your undivided attention as much as you can. And especially be available during the transition period immediately after arriving home. As well, you’ll want to begin bedtime earlier. They need more rest, of course. But when you notice those tough transitions, allowing more time for processing the day with you is important. Bedtime is ideal for this as it’s (hopefully!) more quiet, calm and relaxing—thus allowing for those bond-inducing, sleepy chats.

So tonight right after the bedtime story, stick around and simply listen. Your child will naturally lead you where they need you to go.

Sincerely,
Alison “Mending-Hearts” Smith

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