Follow These 4 Rules To Make After School A Happy Time In Your House
Kids need some time to relax after a long day at school.
Each afternoon you walk to the door to greet your children as they arrive home from school. You are met with open arms, huge smiles and warm hugs before you head in for some freshly baked cookies and a cold glass of milk. You listen as your children share all about their days. Then they move into the other room to unpack their bags and get started on their homework without even being asked.
For those of us that don’t live in this perfect fantasy world, our afternoons can be a little more chaotic, and possibly filled with tears and frustration. Fortunately, there are some strategies that will help both you and your child to feel more in control after school. Cookies probably help, too—but no need to bake them yourself.
1. Calm Entry
This is when parents need to exercise a little self control. It can be overwhelming to step into the house and have someone immediately asking, “How was your day? Do you have much homework? Did you give the note to Ms. Murphy today? Who did you play with at recess?” Too many questions too soon can create stress for kids (and adults!).
Instead, allow little ones to get settled and then ask something along the lines of what blogger Amanda of Dirt and Boogers suggests: “Would you like to tell me about your day now or at dinner?” By asking in this way, you are giving the child the power to decide when he would like to share with you, but you are also letting him know that he will be sharing with you. The child has a choice, but you have maintained control.
2. Down Time
In the several hours that children are at school each day, a lot is being asked of them. There are rules to be followed, games to be played, work to be completed and deadlines to meet. They are taxed emotionally through peer interactions, disappointments and pleasures. There may also be physical challenges during recess, gym class, as well as the battle to sit still during class.
When kids finally arrive home to a safe place, some of this strain can boil over. This is especially true if there is immediately a new list of demands being placed on them. Whenever possible, allow your child a little downtime right after school. Give them a few minutes to just take a break and process all that they have faced that day.
A few of you might be panicked just by seeing the word. Your routine consists of constant change, with no day ever the same. But children thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. So try to adopt a routine that works for your family.
Perhaps everyday they come in and empty their backpacks, have a snack and then get a certain amount of time to play or relax before you shuttle them off to the next event. This doesn’t have to be all afternoon. The steps described could all be done in 15 to 20 minutes if that is what your family schedule requires—but those few moments to breathe can be a huge stress relief.
4. Consistency and Clarity
Don’t allow all the pressures of the school day be an excuse for bad behavior. If you excuse a child from a rule just because she’s tired, then she will constantly be testing boundaries to see what she can get away with this time. Stay consistent. You have put the rules in place for a reason.
Along with consistency comes clarity. Children should know what the expectations are and what the consequences will be if those expectations are not met. When a rule is broken, there should be a conversation about what was done wrong. That allows the child to take responsibility for breaking the rule.