If you have school age children or children in childcare, you may know exactly what I am talking about. The after school chaos! Let me just start by saying that I love my children, I miss them and I DO want to go and get them from school and childcare at the end of the day. Some days though, I dread the end of the day! I dread that when we get home, the arguing starts, sometimes the pure defiance, the meltdowns and it just feels like chaos. I need to get dinner ready, there is homework, children are craving my attention, etc. so if I can avoid the after school and after childcare chaos life is so much easier!
Siblings get together again and have to remember how to interact with each other, this is where the arguing begins!
What if I told you that I have a little secret on how you can make the afternoon/evening run a little smoother?! The secret that I have is….take some time to connect with your child(ren)!!
Emotional Connections at the end of the day
It all boils down to taking some time to connect with your children before asking them to do ANYTHING!
Before you ask them to unload their bags, do homework, share their toys, etc., take some time with each child (either one at a time or all together) and give them that emotional connection that they craved from you all day.
I know, I know! How can I take any time when I have one million things to do? But believe me, it will make your evening that much easier. You might still get some arguments or some off-track behaviour but this will diminish it immensely. It makes cooking dinner that much more pleasant!
Here is why…Our children are away from us all day, they need to reconnect with us to help ground them again before they can truly move on with their evenings. They have been with friends or teachers, people they feel close with yes, but nothing like the relationship that they have with their primary caregivers. When they get home, they are feeling overwhelmed with the emotions of being back with you in their safe space and exhausted from their day. They need some form of emotional connection before they can think again and truly continue on with their day. It helps ground them before tackling evening responsibilities.
There are days where you just won’t have the mental space to do this, and that is okay! There certainly are days where I do not have the energy or the patience to do anything. I do however notice a very big difference on those days where I do not take the time with my children after school/childcare so I make a conscious effort to do so!
Some ideas of what you can do to meet that emotional connection need:
Really, anything that you are doing where your focus is on your child/ren but a physical connection with eye contact and laughter of some sort is ideal! The idea is that you want to engage in an activity that puts you into their world and where they have the chance to lead that activity. You are focused on them and not all of the 1,000 tasks you might have to do that evening.
- Sitting down with them, cuddling and reading a book
- Playing a game that they would like to play
- Asking them what they would like to do and letting them take the lead
- After you have that initial connection, set them up with something that they can do on their own close by while you make dinner. Ex: Play doh, colouring, gluing or a simple craft, puzzles or coloring.
Give them some down time
Whether it is reading a book, playing quietly or watching a show, your little one’s mind has been active all day. They have been away from home which takes a lot of energy for their minds.
Giving them a little bit of downtime before they have to do homework or take a bath will give their minds a break before they have to continue on with the evening. I know that I appreciate a sip of coffee or a little sit down to ground myself, recuperate and prepare before I have to get up and make dinner or the other million things that need to be done in the evenings!
Give them a snack
School is a very different place for your children and they may have been chatting away during lunch hour or may not have had a lot of time to eat their snacks. Regardless of whether your child has just eaten or not, it takes a lot of energy to be at school or childcare. They may genuinely be hungry when you get them home. Offering them a healthy snack of some sort with a drink can help them relax and gives them a little down time as well as gives their body that energy so that they can focus once again. I know that I am a bear when I am hangry! A small snack can help with their emotions and outbursts as well.
You are their safe space
Our children feel the most comfortable and secure with their primary caregivers. So imagine a day where they have to be on their very best behaviour, someone may have taken their toys, they may have tried to climb the monkey bars and couldn’t quite get it and that frustrated them. All of these little things that happen in their day are great learning experiences for them. These experiences can also cause some pent up feelings and frustrations. When they do act out when they get home or have many emotions, try to keep in mind that they are not doing it to you- even if it feels that way!! They are beginning to process their day and now that they are at home or with you in their safe space, all of those feelings come pouring out and they do not necessarily know how to deal with it.
So what can you do to help with the emotions?
Validate their feelings.
Children always want to know that we hear them and understand them.
“I can see that you are upset right now. I am here listening to you.”
“I know that it is hard to be away from me. I will be right here as you get out your feelings.”
“I know this is tough, I am here for you.”
Give them the space to tell you what they are feeling (if they are old enough.) You can do this by asking open ended questions without quizzing them on their day. Wait for them to be ready.
Some ideas of questions are:
“What was a happy part of today?”
”Who did you sit beside at lunch? Who did you play with outside?”
“Was there anything that you didn’t like that happened today?”
”Did something make you angry today?”
Finally, let them get out those feelings and emotions when they have to. Even if it does come out in crying, anger and meltdowns or potentially defiant behaviour! Most often, what we want to do is stop the crying and upset by distracting them but just letting them simply get out those feelings helps them move forward.
If you find yourself dealing with the daily chaos after school or childcare, take the time to enjoy a little time with your kids before diving into anything and you should find the chaos diminishing!