If your child comes home from school in a horrible mood, throwing tantrums and lashing out-you are not alone. After-school restraint collapse is a real phenomenon and if you’ve been searching for ways to remedy it, keep reading.
With the school year going in full gear now, you may be feeling the weight of after-school restraint collapse. Psychotherapist Andrea Nair coined this term to explain what happens when children come home from school unable to continue to hold in their pent-up emotions, leading them to lash out in tantrums, crying, and mood swings.
After a long day of striving to stay motivated, alert, and holding in their emotions towards others- children end up feeling burned out. In turn, after school restraint collapse takes place.
Symptoms of this can include screaming, crying, whining, disrespectful behaviors, anger outbursts, and various other displays of emotional burnout. And while all children are affected by it to some degree, those with learning and socialization problems are the most affected. It can be experienced by both young children and adolescents and is made worse by lack of sleep, hunger, overstimulation, life stress, and sickness.
For some parents, it may be mistaken as their child testing them, or fatigue, but it is far different than that. Even as adults, bottling in our emotions and feeling throughout the day can lead to burnout, but imagine your child, whose brain hasn’t fully developed and who hasn’t fully learned the proper coping skills for handling difficult emotions and burnout.
Throughout their school day, they try to be kind and not come off as rude or emotionally unruly, in order to be good and to not get into trouble at school. They don’t want to get an unsatisfactory mark or go to the principal’s office, so they try their best to act exactly as they are expected to. While they may want to throw something or yell at their schoolmates, they resist and bottle it in until they get home.
And by the time they make it home- they just want comfort and to let out all of their emotions. In turn, they may come straight through the door, seemingly frustrated and moody. They may throw a tantrum, or cry uncontrollably. While you may feel powerless or frustrated in return with them, there are ways to circumvent these behaviors and to help them cope.
So how do you handle these mood outbursts and shifts with compassion?
1. Greet them and reconnect.
Smile at your children when they make it home and give them a hug. Try not to ask a lot of questions about their day, and have a calm and peaceful environment for them to come home to.
2. Allow them a “brain break,” instead of jumping straight to homework.
Allow them time to regroup and calm their mind before you push them to start on homework, so they can decompress and regather themselves.
3. Provide a nourishing snack and drink.
After school, kids are likely hungry, and hunger definitely doesn’t help when they are facing complex emotions. Meet them with a nourishing snack and hydrating beverage. Allow them time to sit down and enjoy their snack and become rejuvenated.
4. Find a way to connect with them, even when they are at school.
Andrea Nair suggests wearing a matching bracelet, tucking a note into their lunch box or folder, or providing them with a picture of you together. This will help them to have a connection to you and to your home- so they can channel that peace into their school day during times of stress.
If your child still has a meltdown, don’t be disappointed, and don’t resort to punishment. Allow them to release their emotions and validate their feelings. Allow them to transition into a safe space where they cannot hurt themselves. Once they have started to come down from their meltdown, try some decompression yoga, or take them for a walk or bike ride. If that isn’t their preference- let them relax on their terms. And remember to help them to express their emotions by guiding them using statements such as “I feel __ because ___,” while reminding them to take deep breaths.
Nair states that if they end up melting down for a moment, it’s likely they needed to. The best way to handle it is to help them learn better coping mechanisms for their difficult emotions, while making them feel validated and empathized with. As time goes on, the meltdowns are likely to decrease, and they will start easing into the transition from home to school.