Long, exhaustive days are hard. They can be especially difficult for children, as they are still learning to control their emotions. Kids are expected to quietly listen, mind their manners, socialize, and suppress the stress and anxiety they feel throughout the lengthy school days.
What happens to those big feelings? On occasion, they are desperately released in an eruption of emotions as soon as they get home. This common phenomenon of emotional discharge is known as after-school restraint collapse.
Coined by Canadian counselor and parenting educator Andrea Loewen Nair, the term “after-school restraint collapse” refers to a meltdown or set of challenging behaviors that emerge when kids finish their school day.
What kind of behaviors fall into this description? Children experiencing this collapse can have a wide range of reactions. From crying and whining to exhibiting defiance and anger, the release of emotions can look different for each child each time it happens. While normal, this collapse can be difficult for parents to handle. However, there are plenty of coping practices that can help.
To start, it’s important to understand what’s triggering these meltdowns. Is your child hungry or tired from inadequate sleep? Does he or she need to relax somewhere quietly to decompress or is physical activity more effective? Answering these types of questions could pinpoint changes that need to be made or enable you to find constructive outlets for your child’s emotions.
Such outlets could include listening to your child’s favorite music or soothing harmonies. Exercising in the form of a family bike ride or walk after school can also be helpful. However, some children may just want to be left alone, and that’s OK. Simply allowing them to relax on their own terms can lead to healthy decompression.
One of the best methods to help children — and often adults, too — is to develop a routine. Routines are comforting. Kids can feel more secure and relaxed when they know what to expect at the end of the school day. You can create routines by making time for a nutritious snack, a fun activity, and to talk about their day.
If your child is in the throes of a meltdown, it’s important you remain cool and convey a sense of composure. These meltdowns shouldn’t be punished like normal tantrums. Instead, remind your child that feelings like these are natural, and he or she should take deep breaths. Be sure to express validation and empathy, as it can ease the stress they’re going through. Once calm, brainstorm together what is wrong, what triggered the meltdown, and how everyone can work to prevent or minimize them.
By alleviating stress and encouraging resiliency, you can work together to face these challenging moments head-on and get back to the good times. For more information on after-school restraint collapse and ways to address it, please see the accompanying resource.
Infographic created by Pathway Christian Prep Academy, an online grade school