Their teacher tells you that they are as lovely as can be in the classroom, so why is that NOT what you experience when your child greets you at pick-up?
Some children scream and shout, some become emotional, and others become generally unreasonable – ignoring instructions, being disrespectful or throwing insults at you and their siblings.
No. Your child hasn’t got a split-personality. What they are experiencing is a perfectly normal part of life and here are a few reasons as to why it happens.
At school, kids have to navigate all sorts of expectations, disappointments, and challenges, on top of learning.
After a full-on day, their energy levels are depleted, their emotions are high and they’re over-stimulated – it’s like a huge bubble that needs to burst.
This ‘full-on’ routine can cause your child to become tired, particularly if they are in their first year at school, but also at the end of term when they are ready for a break.
Something has happened
The school day isn’t always great. There might be fall-outs with friends, your child may have struggled with their schoolwork, or they may have got into trouble, and not having you, their ‘safe place’ around can make them feel cross. They will have held their emotions in all day, and this means that you bear the brunt of their upset.
At the beginning of a new school year, not only do children have to get to know a new teacher, but they also have a new routine to learn, new rules to follow and a new classroom to navigate. Not all children react well to change, and this can cause some anxiety and be particularly bad if your child is starting school for the first time, as they have more of an adjustment to make.
All that learning, playing and ‘holding it together’ burns a lot of energy. Throw in a day where your child hasn’t eaten much lunch and you get a very ‘hangry’ child greeting you at the school gates. Along with hunger, sometimes thirst can be an issue too. Kids are notorious for not drinking enough throughout the day, so they can have had hardly anything to drink since breakfast.
The good news is, there are ways in which you can help minimise these after school behaviours.
If tiredness is the issue, keep things quiet out of school, as mum of three and owner of Kind Kids Book Club, Amie Jones says works for her.
“I often find that after school, my kids are over-tired and over-stimulated - they need time and space to wind down and relax. They can’t do this by themselves, so I have found that reading with them and talking about what we have read, a brilliant way to regulate meltdowns and talk about big feelings.”
Avoiding lots of playdates or rushing about to activities is advisable too, until your child builds up their stamina.
If your child has had a bad day or is feeling anxious, it is important that they know that while they are in school, their teacher is their ‘safe’ person to go to when things get tough. This helps deflect their frustrations from you. It might be worth highlighting to the teacher that there are things going on, so they can keep a closer eye on them and make sure that your child feels secure.
Some children love finding little notes from their parents in their packed lunch or their bag and this can really help them feel connected with you while you are not there – my daughter found me writing jokes on her snack time banana helpful!
If you are really worried about how hungry your child is after school, speak with their teacher to find out just how much they are eating. They might be ‘too busy’ to eat their snack, for instance – very common in younger kids. If school dinners don’t seem to be filling enough, or your child doesn’t really eat them, a packed lunch might be a good solution, but an absolute must is refuelling with a decent after school snack and drink.
But what if your child needs more?
Mum of one, Rebecca Daniel, a transformation coach from Kent, says this is the case for her daughter in Reception class.
“After a chat with our daughter about her tricky behaviour, it became clear that she needed more stimulation. She now attends several after school clubs which has reduced a lot of the upset and stress, for her and for us.”
Being under-stimulated can happen with some children - they just need more. Like Rebecca, if you can see that there is no tiredness, anxiety or worries at school, you might find some after school activities beneficial.