Your Cart is Empty

3 min read

Does your child's caregiver or teacher frequently tell you how sweet, quiet, and generally well-behaved your child is...

...only for you to get home and have your child quickly start crying, yelling, or running laps around the room?

You're not alone. This is a very common phenomena.

So common that it now has a term - "after-school restraint collapse", coined by counsellor and educator Andrea Loewen Nair.

By the end of the day, containing all those big emotions can feel like a bubble that's ready to burst.

The behaviour can look different in different children, including:

  • High energy/acting 'hyper' (this is definitely my oldest, it can feel like he's got enough energy to run a marathon some days)
  • Big emotions - it can even be full-blown meltdowns where the child can’t be distracted or soothed
  • Short-temper - where small inconveniences, like a dropped banana, can result in screaming and crying

Why is this happening?

Being away from home and away from you is tough, especially for infants and toddlers, but for children of any age.

There is also a lot of stimulation, expectations, and rules to follow at school.

At school, children are required to keep their hands to themselves, keep their voice quiet for most of the day, and keep their emotions calm.

None of these are natural behaviours all day long for young children.

Once a child gets into their safe space, you and their home, they feel comfortable enough to release all those pent up feelings.

How can you help your child?

After a long day at school, children need downtime.

You might think a trip to the neighbourhood park after school is a great idea but be mindful of the fact that your child has likely spent a lot of time with these same children all day.

They’re tired, even if their energy level is telling you otherwise, and they need to be somewhere where expectations are very low. A playground filled with peers still has many expectations - expectations for safety, kindness, respect to others, etc.

What type of activity doesn’t have expectations?

  • Going for a walk in a stroller/wagon or on foot. You can make it a very slow walk where you observe nature or take time to connect with them. Try to avoid asking too many questions. Their brains have been working hard all day and they may need a break from having to think or remember. This is probably something you as an adult can relate to.
  • Go home and follow your child’s lead on how they want to spend their time. They may want to read, play with blocks, be alone, or play in the backyard. You can offer different activities or ideas based on their mood and energy level.
  • You can still go to the park, but you could go to a quieter one, maybe one further away from school. If you do go to the neighbourhood park, be prepared to leave when you observe that your child has had enough.
  • Offer a snack. Sometimes it's just been awhile since they've eaten. A quiet snack right when you get home or even before you head home can help.

For children 2.5+:

Around approx. 2.5-3 years old, children will begin to show more of an interest in their peers. The sensitive period for social interaction starts at this time and this is when parents will observe their children saying "I want to go to the park and play with my friends."

In this case, it could be ok to go to the park but maybe not every day or they might do better staying for a shorter period. Keep a close eye for changes in behaviour that may mean it’s time to go home.

For a child that's frequently experiencing after-school restraint collapse, consider limiting after school clubs or activities. If you do sign them up for activities, consider the flowing:

  • Will they have time for a snack and to relax a little bit before it starts?
  • Do they have the option of choosing not to go if they’re too tired?

Want More Info?

If this is something your child is really struggling with, check out this article written by Andrea Loewen Nair > http://www.andrealoewen.ca/7-ways-help-child-handle-school-restraint-collapse/