What is after school restraint collapse? After school restraint collapse is a fancy word for afternoon meltdowns (usually occurring after school or day care). Most often, this is the aftermath of 8 hours of being “on” all day. This can be a lot for someone who’s brain (and thus ability to process stress and emotions and self-control) isn’t fully developed. Your child is literally collapsing (melting down) after a full day of restraint (being polite, focusing on school work, tolerating peers, and staying quiet). Some children may be overstimulated or overtired by the time they get home, which contributes to meltdowns. This is pretty normal for kindergarteners and first graders in the first few months of school. If this persists or becomes disruptive to normal life, you can make some changes to alleviate these. Work with your child’s teacher if she needs a less stimulating environment for part of the day. Improve sleep hygiene or increase sleep if tiredness persists.

How can I quickly get my child to decompress? If you’re in a situation where a full blown meltdown isn’t going to work or you need to reorient your child quickly, you can help them feel grounded by having them use as many senses as possible. If you know your child is prone to meltdowns after school, throw some of these things into your bag so you have them on hand. Ask her to find an object in a specific color. Rub a calming essential oil blend in your hands and have her inhale deeply. Give her a few sips of a clean electrolyte drink (Ultima is a personal fave of mine https://amzn.to/2ZvwHrG). Have her place an ice pack on the back of her neck (throw a reusable one in your bag https://amzn.to/2KZUYlQ).

Other Ideas

1.Be supportive. This is normal! Give your child some space and let her know that big feelings are ok. You’re proud of the great day she had, and you understand she needs some downtime. Overtime, continuing to reinforce this will lead to healthy emotional development and the ability to navigate stressors in a positive way. Model these behaviors yourself to show how truly important they are.

2.Give snacks. Go ahead and assume that she’s hungry after school. Sometimes after school crankiness can be exacerbated by blood sugar swings. Schoollunches and snacks tend to be high in simple carbs, and even if you pack her lunch, she might trade items with a classmate or go for the higher carb options. Offer a snack high in healthy fats and/or proteins to combat this. Some yummy options are hummus with veggies, jerky, nuts, snack mix, peanut butter with fruit, guacamole, or cheese. If you know there’s something that she likes, go ahead and have it ready if possible. This will prevent her from having to make another decision after being “on” all day.

3.Stay connected. Gently reconnect with a big hug as soon as you see your child and let her know happy you are to see her. Ask silly icebreaker questions instead of things that might cause stress (like “How was your day?” or “Why did you get in trouble?”). Maintain your connection throughout the day by sending notes in lunch boxes, volunteering at your child’s school, or putting a fun surprise in her backpack. (How cute are these note pads?! Write a sweet lunch box notes on one https://amzn.to/32bHBVE)

4.Have fun. Just like how grown ups want to blow off a little steam off after work, kids need to have a fun outlet. Whether it’s a sport or hobby, monitored/limited screen time, outside play time, or sensory bin fun, give your kiddo an outlet that she enjoys.

5.Create routine. Especially if your little one has sensory processing issues or is on the spectrum, creating a pleasant after school routine can reduce the frequency and severity of after school meltdowns. Setting the tone that this routine is normal and healthy will teach valuable skills for handling stress as she grows up.