Another year older, another new grade, maybe even a new school! Either way children and parents must transition from summer mode to a new routine of school and activities. This can be really hard for both children and parents. Whether your child is entering Preschool, Elementary, Middle School or High School. Going from the relaxed nature of summer to having to be “on” all day at school is a lot of work. The reason you have a tired child after school? They are using their brains, regulating their emotions constantly, and being stimulated for 6 hours straight.
I personally was always so confused when my child would get home from school cranky, irritable, and unkind. I waited anxiously all day to hear all about the teacher, her new classmates, and how the day went. All I would get is an emotional roller coaster of a daughter that wanted nothing to do with talking about school. Each year this has progressively gotten a little easier, but I still expect a tired child off the bus the first couple of weeks, and prepare mentally for this. It doesn’t mean it is easy but It helps me be more empathetic and support my daughter through this big transition.
How can we support our children through the back to school transition?
1. Be prepared for them to be tired.
Remember they have pretty much performed all day long, behaved wonderfully and got along with their peers for 6-7 hours. Be empathetic and understand that they might need to just chill out for the next 3-5 days after school.
2. Don’t bombard them with questions.
As much as we want to hear about their day, they might not want to or have the energy to talk about it. Start with one question and see where it goes. If they don’t seem interested, let it go and they will talk about it when they are ready.
3. Don’t make plans.
Keep the first 3-5 days of school really low key with no activities or planned playdates. They might want to play with friends or to go do something but you could be playing with fire as meltdowns might occur. If play happens naturally, great! Just keep your expectations low.
4. Prioritize bedtime.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep will be important during the school transition and beyond. Children are better able to focus, regulate emotions, and retain information when they are well rested. A full night’s sleep is not only essential for a healthy child but is going to be your best friend through this time!
5. Give them so much love and keep boundaries.
When kids feel chaotic inside they need a sturdy leader and firm boundaries to make them feel safe. This can be hard when our kids aren’t being their best selves, but grit your teeth and show them love and support. Tell them you understand where they are coming from and you know that it is hard. Instead of critiquing, give them a hug. This doesn’t mean letting them be disrespectful and misbehaving. Stay true to your boundaries and values, but lead with understanding and compassion.
6. Don’t take it personally.
The hardest thing to do when your child is tired after school is to not take it personally. Trust me when I say they are happy to see you. Children know that parents will love them unconditionally, and that we know they aren’t bad inside if they misbehave. Brush it off, because it is temporary and a waste of energy for you to get upset. Instead first support and show understanding, then remind the child of your behavior expectations. Set them up with something quiet to do; coloring, read a book, play a game, one tv show(remember TV is stimulating), or playing outside. One of my favorite books “The Four Agreements” By Don Miguel Ruiz states that the 2rd agreement of never taking anything personally will change your life. I completely agree!! Talk about an energy saver. Try it today with your tired child!
A tired child should be temporary or sporadic
A tired child after school will improve within a week or so if you follow the guidelines above. You don’t hear too many kids say they are tired. All of these behaviors whether they are cranky, short with you, throwing temper tantrums, doing things they know get under your skin, or starting fights with you or a family member. This is their language. If they come home happy and energetic, thank the good lord and consider yourself lucky! The truth is we all have these days or weeks when we are tired and they are hard for everyone. Practice the six steps above to get through to a wonderful new routine and a great school year!
If your child’s hard afternoons or mornings are not improving reach out for a 30-minute free consult. Having a hard time waking up, and behavior issues in the afternoons could mean they aren’t getting enough sleep or it isn’t good quality sleep. As I said above, tired days should be sporadic once your child gets into the swing of their new routine. You can also read more about how to look out for overtired energy and how it can come out in behavior. Check out all of the sleep programs we offer at FED Coaching and our podcast Empowerhood packed with free resources for every family. Help your family get the rest they need to get the most of this school year!