Back to school meltdowns: Heading into the new school year means changing schedules and new challenges. Learn how to understand what’s going on and how to help your child at this precarious time.
I had a child that every. single. year. had a REALLY tough transition into the new school year. Of course, it was worst the first few grades, but each year was hard for him. I even see it now that he’s in college.
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Back to School Meltdowns
Today, I want to talk about why they happen — because, when you’re in your child’s shoes, you understand it a bit more. Also, what to do when they happen, so the afternoons are a bit more liveable for all of you!
Why Back to School Meltdowns Happen
For me, I think of it as my child having a new job.
Do you remember getting a new job, and how emotionally draining it is?
- New people to meet at every turn
- New routines
- Possibly new hours
- New responsibilities
- Building levels of trust with all the new people
It can really suck the life out of you. For me, there are often tears and missing my old routine.
I TRY to remember this when I think my child just needs to get it together and move on.
Why it is hard to have back to school meltdowns?
Well, clearly no one rejoices when a meltdown happens at any point, but for me — I’m in a new position too. Back to the routine of the school year, and trying to get on track with that .
Personal note: I often try to get my whole life in order at the beginning of the school year as well — and I should probably give myself some grace in that area). Anyone else feel that way?
Also, I tend to feel like my child is now in their “safe space” — why melt down here when NOTHING HERE HAS CHANGED!?
Why your child has their melt down at home
Kids are smart enough to know that they shouldn’t have the melt down at school. Peers are watching, he/she doens’t want the teacher to think poorly of them.
So, they melt down at home.
Which, you’d honestly prefer. You don’t want them having consistant melt downs at school. It’s not great for a kid socially. You’d rather have them at home.
Of course, you’d rather not have them at all… which brings us to…
Preventing Back to School Meltdowns
Here are my 3 tips to preventing back to school meltdowns. Then, we’ll go over my 3 tips to preventing after school meltdowns in general.
#1 tip to prevent after school meltdowns: Talk about it ahead of time
We always have back to school dates. This is a good time to reminice over the meltdowns they had last year and remind them that it CAN be a hard time.
Sometimes just telling a kid that what they’re feeling is normal make it better.
Sometimes just asking them what they think could make it better helps you brainstorm MORE tips! Plus, it gets the kid some control in the situation.
#2 tip to prevent back to school meltdowns: A “pre-schedule”
The days before school starts I like to slowly ease into our new schedule. That means getting them up earlier (in the guise of running to the store for school supplies).
This may also mean a trip to the school playground to just sort of ease them back into that environment.
A lot of times the melt downs are triggered by a kid who’s been staying up FAR too late before school starts. So, nip that in the bud 2-3 days before the first day. Or, slowly ease bedtime back (honeslty, we only adjust bedtime by about 1/2 an hour during the summer because I think it just helps my kids overall).
#3 Tip to prevent back to school meltdowns: Talk about school!
Before the school year starts. Talk about how he’ll be in a new routine. If you know the kids in his class, perhaps have a playdate as school gets closer so that he gets into a zone of familiarity with some of them ahead of time.
Talk about the teacher. If an older sibling knows the teacher, encourage them to talk about that teacher (and to keep it in a positive light). If possible, check out last year’s yearbook to see what she looks like.
Just familiarize your child, as much as possible, with what will happen when they go back.
Related Post: Talking to Kids about Sex
Tips to Prevent After School Meltdowns in General
#1 Tip to Prevent After School Meltdowns: Food
Food is necessary after school. I came from a house where snacks weren’t really a “thing” — but I really try to have home baked cookies on the first day home from school.
I honestly try to bring out my June Cleaver as much as possible (and frankly, it’s hard — but I try).
For us, I ask my kids to snack on the food they didn’t eat at lunch on the ride home from school (just make sure you have a good enough ice pack to keep it safe that long — says this Arizona mom).
That is often quite plentiful (especially on the first day).
Then, I have something healthy-ish waiting for them when they get inside. I also encourage a large glass of water as the back to school time is hot (especially here) and hydration is always key.
Cookies are pretty great as you can make them a bit more healthy without kids knowing. I have a whole post about becoming a “cookie mom”.
#2 Tip to Prevent After School Meltdowns: Down Time
I really try to give kids 30 minutes or so to do their own thing (often it’s them eating and reading or just zoning out) after they get home.
If you have after school activities, it wouldn’t be a bad move to cancel them the first few days of school.
Rushing kids into their next thing is hard on them.
Remember, the new job — how it felt coming home. Give them a safe, calm place.
#3 Tip to Prevent After Shool Meltdowns: You
Yup. You’re sometimes the problem. Talking too much, or not talking enough.
Not having enough of “you” (be it chores, or dinner time prep, or not spending lots of time with younger siblings during the day) to give them when they get home can be a problem.
Those first few days, make an extra effort to:
- Have another activity for younger siblings, or prepare them to be good to the school age kids when they get home.
- Have dinner prepped before the hour after school (or deal with it later)
- Take some time to get “you” in a zone to be that safe space.
Honestly, guys — I have not always been that safe space. Our family motto is “get it together” and I often just think they need to suck it up and move on.
Especially when we were headed into 3rd grade and still having issues.
In fact, my oldest had the same teacher TWICE in elementary school (he had the same one for 1st and 2nd, and another one he had for 4th and 5th) and he would STILL melt down.
So, things aren’t perfect. He just had a rough time with it.
And frankly, I probably had a rough time with it too.
A lot of this prep is to get YOU ready for it as well!
I hope this post helped you realize that back to school & after school melt downs are NORMAL (even if they’re annoying). A few ideas on how to adjust you to help them and some hope that they’ll go away eventually.
My kids always took about 3-5 days and adjusted nicely after that.
Be aware that Kindergarten can be hard for up to a month, I find. It’s a BIG change. So, adjust accordingly. 🙂
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