Many moms are astounded to hear that the behaviors their children display at school don’t always match up to that which moms experience at home. “Your child is so well behaved,” the teacher declares, “She’s such a good listener”, or “He’s so easy going and respectful".
When I hear these statements from my children’s teachers, they do not surprise me. What surprises me is that these same teachers never experience the tantrum when my son doesn’t get his way, or the whining at almost everything from another son, or the sassiness from my daughter. While this near-perfect behavior at school does not necessarily surprise us –the breakdowns, tantrums, and exhaustive fits soon after school should not surprise us either.
Think about it – our children have held it together all day long. Our children have a “long work day” – they have few breaks throughout the day, and those breaks come at times decided by somebody else. They spend much of their day in learning environments where they are actively busy, engaged in learning, and trying to grasp new information.
Adults require time to wind down from a workday and so do children. It is up to mom to help ease children from school to home. Making that transition as smooth as possible will help alleviate some of the meltdowns that often occur in the late afternoon hours otherwise known as the “witching hours”.
If time allots, it is beneficial to refrain from doing homework immediately upon returning from school. Mom may want to get it over with, but our children hardly want to do more work at the end of a full day of work. Homework time may be more successful if you can give your children some relaxation or play time first.
Setting up a calm environment will also ease the transition. Creating a routine your children can count provides stability and consistency, and children respond well to routine. An after school routine might look like this – when you come home from school, offer your children a snack. Put a basket of fruit sticks, rice cakes and cereal bars out on the table. Add a bowl of fruit and lots of water as well. Play music, go to the park together, or play in the backyard to separate the workday from playtime.
Use dinner to separate playtime from homework time. This creates another smooth transition and will make shifting to homework an easier task. Serve dinner, take baths or showers, and then sit down to do homework. If you eat early enough, children can still start homework by 6:30 giving you plenty of time to get it completed before bedtime.
Families who engage in electronics (video game playing, computers) or TV watching should try to turn off those activities at least thirty minutes before bedtime. This will allow your children’s busy and stimulated minds to settle down in preparation for sleep.
Ease children into bedtime routines with soft music, child-friendly meditations, or reading out loud. Some children have difficulty settling down after a busy day, and your bedtime habits will create a predictable pattern for your children.
The consistency in your after school and night time schedules will help prevent the late afternoon meltdowns that often occur on the very day your child’s teacher has told you how well behaved he or she is. Tantrums and meltdowns cannot be eliminated entirely, but paying attention to those late afternoon hours will certainly help you create smooth transitions, a calm and peaceful environment, and a great way for your children to wind down from the school day.