Psychology

After school blues

A day at school eats up a huge amount of your child’s physical, mental and emotional energy. No wonder kids arrive home hungry, tired and grumpy! Isabell Fisher, co-founder of Little Hands Learning*, has used her personal experience to give some invaluable advice on how to cope.

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‘Before my son started school, I had images of picking him up, getting a huge cuddle and spending the afternoon chatting about what he had learned that day. The reality couldn’t be more different! On a good day, I might get a grunt when I pick him up. My sweet, easy-going little boy turns into the Incredible Hulk after school and it’s so hard to bring him back!

My sweet, easy-going little boy turns into the Incredible Hulk after school

But I know I’m not the only parent to experience this. From talking to other parents and carers, it seems as if most children turn into monsters at the end of the school day. It’s hardly surprising: nursery and school are full on. All day our children have been following instructions, negotiating with friends, learning new stuff– no wonder they’re low on patience and energy. Here are my top tips for taming your mini Incredible Hulk.

Feed them

I quickly learned to give my son a snack as soon as he leaves school. The quicker he’s fed, the better. He might have a sandwich, a piece of fruit, crackers, flapjack ­ whatever it takes to prevent his blood sugar levels hitting rock bottom.

Don’t bombard them with chatter

Although I always ask my son how his day was, I’ve learnt not to expect an elaborate answer. Unless he offers up more than ‘fine’ I leave it at that. Sometimes we all need quiet time to switch off and decompress from everything that’s happened. I’ve noticed that as my son relaxes from his day at school, he slowly offers up more and more nuggets of information. I relish every one.

Give them space and time

When we first get back from school, my son does exactly what he wants: colouring, TV, running around the garden. Whatever will help him to unwind. I often find that after he’s had some time doing his own thing, he will want to do something together.

Give them control

From the moment our children wake up they are told what to do: brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, sit down, eat lunch and so on. Try giving them some control back and allowing them to be in charge of what they get up to after school.

At home we have a jar filled with lolly sticks, and on each stick I’ve written a simple after school activity that I know my son enjoys. When he’s ready, he can choose an activity for us to do together ­ or separately if he prefers. All the activities are open-ended: they have no rules and there is no right or wrong way to approach them. Now is not the time for handwriting, phonics or sums!

Don’t take it personally

You will see the very worst of your children because you are their safe space, and they know that you will love them no matter what. You are the person to whom they can reveal their vulnerability, frustration, and anger, without fear of losing your love. But parents are human too! There are times, when my son is shouting and stomping his feet, that I hide in the fridge, desperately shoving chocolate (or wine) in my mouth while banging my head against the wall. DON’T beat yourself up if you too find yourself in the fridge from time to time!

TRY THESE ACTIVITIES

Reading

According to the National Literacy Trust, children who enjoy reading and literacy are three times more likely to have better mental health than children who do not. Through a book, children can explore and learn about their own emotions by observing how the characters experience them. Books are also an excellent way to relax after a full-on day at school or nursery: there’s nothing more soothing than curling up with a loved one to read a good book.

Let them choose the book, cuddle up on the sofa together and escape to wherever the story is set. If you are feeling ambitious and the book is set in a cave or under a bridge, build a den and read inside it.

Playdough

Playing with playdough is a wonderful way to release tension and can calm stress away. Add cinnamon, rosemary, jasmine to your playdough to give the activity an extra calming element.

Waterplay

There’s no right or wrong way to engage with waterplay and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply fill a deep tray or a basin with water, add some jars and ladles and pour water from one jar to the other.

Small World

Imaginative role-play is a wonderful way for children to act out and process any difficult situations that may have happened during the day. Let your child take the lead: perhaps he’d like to be a fireman, or a doctor or even a teacher!

A walk

Getting some fresh air can help us all feel calmer and happier. Let your child chose the direction you head in, and look to see if you can pick up any interesting treasures along the way.

Arts and craft

When kids are distracted by doing something with their hands, they will often share more about their day. Doodling, colouring, painting with watercolours and cutting and sticking can all offer creative outlets to de-stress. But again, let your child take the lead: the process is much more important than the end product!

*Little Hands Learning is an educational and eco-friendly subscription box for children aged three plus. Every month children receive a gift in the post including a curated book full of fun activities designed by teachers to encourage literacy skills by focussing on key areas of the National Curriculum.

Visit www.littlehandslearning.co.uk

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/littlehandslearninguk

Instagram @littlehandslearninguk

Pinterest www.pinterest.co.uk/littlehandslearninguk/TikTok: @littlehandslearning

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