The after school stretch. It’s a tough one. Our kids are often tired and cranky after a long day of excitement and stimulation but we’re keen to reconnect and hear all about their day, longing to enjoy some time with them before it all starts again. The pressure is real, for everyone. Here’s how to ease the stress and enjoy those post-school hours together.
Understand ‘after school restraint’
The first step to easing the pressure for everyone is to recognise the validity of your children’s after school struggles. Your child is likely to have restrained themselves throughout the day to keep their behaviour and emotions under control in a way deemed appropriate by the class. This can be particularly challenging and exhausting for sensitive children.
When our children get home or into the care of a trusted nanny, they offload and begin to unwind. This could be in the form of whinging or a full-on meltdown, but either way the process is vital to your child restabilising and reconnecting with those who they can be completely themselves with.
Try not to take this behaviour personally and instead use the following tips to help them decompress with compassion.
Keep screen time to a minimum
After a long day at school, it’s not uncommon for our kids to want to chill out in front of the TV. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to sit and unwind in front of a Netflix box set. However, we all know that endless screen time isn’t the best for child development or family connection.
Play expert Claire Russell from PlayHOORAY! suggests making it clear how much screen time your children are going to get and telling them in measurable terms they can understand: “Tell them how many episodes they can watch, rather than how many minutes they’ll have. Then have something quick and easy to entice them away from their screens when time is up. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple activities like stickers, plastic animals or playdough will give them time to sit and play quietly as they unwind.”
Physical activity is a quick and easy way to help your kids de-stress and let off pent up energy and emotions. Take your children to the playground or park after school or help them to balance their vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and tactile systems with upside down play. Pick your child up and turn them upside down, try wheelbarrow races or encourage them to go headfirst down the slide. Flipping upside down may seem bizarre to you but give it a try with your kids and see how it makes them giggle and helps their mood.
Make homework fun
Cut down homework battles by helping your children find fun in it. PlayHOORAY’s Claire Russell continues: “With homework, I would suggest encouraging parents to think about how they can encourage their children to do their homework without pen and paper. Whether it’s learning tricky words or writing numbers, can you help your children at least practice without pen & paper?” Think outside the box to bring joy to homework and make completing any written tasks a breeze because they’ll have had fun working everything out.
Tell them about your day
Claire also has a brilliant tip for helping our kids open up after a long day they’d rather not talk about it. “Instead of asking them questions, start telling them about your day instead.” Talk to them in detail about what you’ve done, and you’ll start to see them want to share what they’ve been up to with you too. It might not work straight away but keep at it as a daily practice to see results and reduce grumpy responses which leave you feeling disconnected.
Creative expression is another excellent way to destress after a long day at school. By using their imagination and getting crafty, our children engage their senses, practice mindfulness and experience a safe place to express their emotions. Plus, anytime you encourage creativity, this helps boost their creative skills and problem solving for life.
Creativity doesn’t have to involve messy activities like painting and collage either. Turn up the music and have a kitchen dance party or sing together to make each other laugh.
Pick the right childcare
The right after school childcare is crucial in easing pressures for the whole family. A well-matched nanny helps the children feel secure and parents feel at ease knowing their kids are getting the support they need. At Koru Kids we are passionate about matching you with the right childcare for your family, so the after school stretch becomes more enjoyable for everyone!
Do you have any other ways you relieve pressure for your family after school? We’d love to hear from you! Tag us on social media and we’ll share your ideas with other Koru Kids families.