When my eldest Artan started school 2 years ago, it was a brand new experience for both of us. He had never been to daycare, we also rarely attended “mommy and me” classes or drop in centers. We were used to hanging out at the park daily, playing with the kids there and going on adventures with his younger sister so the structure was a lot different than Artan was used to. As different as it was, he adjusted very well to the routine, his teachers and his new friends.
Artan very quickly became and has each year been ‘a model student’. Listens well and does what’s asked of him accordingly, he completes his classwork, and helps his peers or his teachers. My daughter Aoife who is in her first year of school has very much followed suit as her big brother. But it seems as soon as they say bye to their teachers for the day and I greet them, they’re completely annoyed I’m even there.
One thing these two didn’t have an issue with before starting school was being “on” all day.
Being “on” all day leads to what’s called the “after-school restraint collapse”, which I didn’t know was a thing until reading an article before baby number 3 was due.
All day long children are navigating the classrooms, schoolyard, people, activities, etc. If they’re not practicing their spelling, then they’re busy running outside until it’s time to get their food out to eat. There’s always something to be done. Or when they feel nervous, angered or scared, no parent is around to give a reassuring hug or handhold. There are so many pressures. This is all especially so hard for younger children who’ve experiencing all of this for the first time. Sure they can partly grasp the concepts but are still not mature enough to hold it all together – mentally, physically and emotionally.
And it’s very exhausting for them – mentally, physically and emotionally.
It’s as comparable as us adults being woken up by our alarms daily, to get ready for a full days work, all the while telling ourselves that we just have to make it through the day. We just have to make it through all the daily crap then we can travel back home to our families or pets, a cozy bed, comfort food then we’ll start to feel better again.
Essentially before I read the article detailing ‘after-school restraint collapse’ I had some idea of what was going on because of how Artan was behaving those first
days weeks months. He was more on-edge with his sister, dad and I at the simplest of things. He didn’t want to talk much. He didn’t want to do much. And now we have this dilemma with Aoife.
Things I did and do to combat this after-school battle with now both of the kids (in order from pick-up to dinner time):
- After I greet them, I ask simply how their day was. They usually respond with “good” or “I don’t know”, so I leave it at that. I realized they don’t really want to talk much initially and that’s okay (I’m the same way to be honest) and I wait until later to get more details on everything.
- I’m prepared with a snack and water ready to go at pick-up. Just something light to keep them energized until we get home for a bigger after-school meal.
- Extra play time before we make the trek home. Usually it allows them more time with their friends or a chance to just play with things they didn’t get to earlier.
- Once we’re home, hands are washed and house clothes are on, they both can sit, talk and eat for as long as they want at the table. This gives them a chance to open up about their day to myself and each other. Usually by the end of this they seem a bit more relaxed and back to earth.
- During the week I try to keep the TV off as much as possible for them. I found electronic use before or after school to be too distracting and hypnotizing as they just want to zone out completely and that became especially hard after school when they were having a difficult time decompressing from their day. Rather than relaxing, they were being wired in a complete other way. So In the time before dinner they can do whatever else they want, which lately has been a lot of writing and drawing, LEGOs, barbies or cuddling with their baby brother. Homework and baths are also done at a more leisurely pace as well in this time.
This is our typical after-school routine. Nothing out of the ordinary as they are already so tired from waking up by 7 a.m. and have just enough energy to last until bedtime. We save outings for the weekend so there’s no rushing between tasks and the anxieties accompanied with them.
Check out this article on ‘after-school restraint collapse’ if you’re interested in more info: