The term after-school restraint collapse was coined by counselor and parenting educator Andrea Loewen Nair. It describes a type of behavior in children who behave well at school but come home upset and often angry and crying. The reason some children do this is that they can control their true feelings at school and only feel safe to express them when they get home. Here are some things you can do to help.
Support Your Child When They Are Upset
When your child is crying, angry, throwing things, and generally losing it, it won’t help to tell them to stop. The best thing to do at that time is to go to them and give them supportive comments such as “I understand you had a hard day,” or “I’m on your side.”
This may not be an easy thing to do if you have other tasks such as cooking dinner or tending to another child, but do your best to let the upset and unhappy child believe that you are there for them no matter what.
Wait for It
You may want to talk your child through whatever is troubling them, but don’t rush it. Your child may reject the idea if they’re still in meltdown mode. Wait until they’re calm and able to think more rationally. They may feel a bit embarrassed and need to see that you are not judging them.
At that point, you can suggest that next time they are overwhelmed by negative emotions and freaking out, they can try to express their feelings through conversation.
Exercise and Food
Two things that may help your child calm down a bit after school are exercise and food. Have a snack that they love ready for them and suggest a bike ride, walk, swim, or whatever is available. These may not completely stop a meltdown, but they may help reduce it.
One thing you should not do is suggest or insist your child get right into their homework. Studying will be much more productive once the after-school restraint collapse is over and your child feels calm and safe again.
Despite all of your good intentions and efforts, meltdowns may still happen. This is not necessarily a bad thing and could be a positive venting action for the child.