Kids & Family:Parenting
“Everyday after school, I feel like I’m walking on egg shells around my son. He’s 7 years old and in second grade. After school, the littlest thing can lead to a major meltdown. He says he HATES school and refuses to talk about his day. His teacher says he’s a great kid, learns quickly and follows every rule. When grandparents and friends ask him how he likes school, he shrugs and says, “It’s ok”. With me, however, he claims he HATES IT. It seems like he’s having a hard time coping and I miss my happy summer guy. How can I help him adjust to the stress of a long day in 2nd grade?” Kate
The traditional advice for a stressed out after school kid is to start with the basics: food and sleep. Bring a healthy snack in the car or offer one as soon as they get home. Going to bed earlier in the evening could work wonders but don’t forget about the beauty of an after school nap. Both my teenagers took to napping after school when they have time to squeeze one in, it's not just for pre-schoolers.
Pay attention to what helps your child recuperate the best. Some kids verbally discharge the stress of the day (that doesn’t sound like your boy), some need to physically discharge by going to a park, jumping on a trampoline, or hopping on their bike and riding around the neighborhood.
It can be really difficult for young kids to transition from the structure of school to the freedom of home. It usually helps to have a simple structure to ease the transition. Maybe you can sit at the table, eat a snack and play a game?
When my son was in preschool, I would take him into the backyard and we’d peel and eat an orange. Don’t make it complicated, just a little structure and your calm attention can work wonders.
If you’ve got a cuddler, have him curl up on your lap in a rocking chair. Sing, play music or don’t say a word.
The fact that your kiddo is melting down at home shows you he feels safe and loved enough to express his negative emotions.
Wondering if zoning out on youtube or watching video games count as down time? Watch your child after it’s time to come off. Does he seem calm, cool and collected or is on the verge of a meltdown? How kids react when screen time ends will tell you if it’s helpful or not.
One more thing, kids cannot learn effectively when they are stressed. Caring for his mental and emotional well being should take precedent over homework, especially if he’s doing fine academically at school! Feel free to modify or eliminate homework until he is better able to cope with the school day. Studies show there are no academic benefits to kids doing homework, until middle school.
What gets in our way from observing our kid and figuring out how he best recuperates from school? Our own stress!
When our child says, “I HATE school!” The first thing we want to do is talk him out of it.
“It’s not that bad, you don’t HATE school.” We want to say.
His statement bothers us. We think we’re doing something wrong if our child hates school. We want our kid to be positive, optimistic and happy…..every day…..even when he is sitting on hard chairs, listening to a teacher talk inside four walls, dependent on 30 other kids to do what they are supposed to do.
Rather than dismissing this hatred, allow him to feel it. It doesn't mean anything has gone wrong.
Once you have shown him it's ok to feel whatever he feels, try expanding on your child’s emotional vocabulary. Go through the alphabet and every day think of an adjective to describe school that begins with a different letter. School is Atrocious, Boring, Crazy, Demanding, etc. This shows your child you are listening and validating him, without taking his drama too seriously.
Another thing that gets in our way from being this patient, peaceful, playful parent?
THEIR obnoxious, annoying, explosive, temperamental, selfish behavior!
When our kids are touchy and temperamental, we get touchy and temperamental, too! Emotions are contagious and when they feel stressed, we stress out too.
Be mindful of what you make your child’s behavior mean. If you think “This is terrible and he needs to change right now!” You are going to have an explosive, teary afternoon.
If you think, “I can show him how to relax” or “We are learning what works best for him” it can calm you down and keep you from getting pulled into the drama.
One more thing I see parents getting pulled into is the idea that someone or something at school is CAUSING the stress.
Certainly, do your due diligence and make sure your child is physically and emotionally safe at school. We hate things because of the thoughts we think in our mind. Our negative thinking, causes us to feel negative emotion, which makes us look externally for some cause of this problem. It’s easy to find at school because there are so many imperfect teachers teaching imperfect curriculum to imperfect students under the supervision of an imperfect administration.
When we think that someone or something is causing our child to suffer, we get combative. We want to fight for justice. We think our cause is a noble one but it can really ramp up the suffering for ourselves and our child.
Blaming someone for our negative emotions makes us feel powerless. Suddenly, we become dependent on people we don’t even like to make us feel good. Putting our ability to feel happy in the hands of others will always make us feel helpless and powerless.
Accept that school, teachers, and homework will always be imperfect. Your child gets to decide how he wants to feel about that. If he wants to feel hatred, that’s his choice. You get to decide how you want to feel about the fact that your child hates school.
Take charge of the things you have control over, and accept everything else is as it should be.
When our children are struggling and suffering, sometimes we try to help by “jumping down the well” with them. It’s as though our child has fallen down a well and is sitting on the bottom calling “Mom, Help, I’ve fallen down a well!”
We spring to action and jump down the well to join them in their misery. Now both mom and child ae sitting at the bottom of the well, miserable. Now you both cry, “Help! It’s dark and cold down here and we can’t get out!” You think you are helping but you feel worse because you have fallen down the same well. Your child feels better because he isn't alone but also believes he can't solve his own problems. You are stuck with solidarity but not solutions.
In order to ACTUALLY help your child, you’ll need to stay above ground. When you are above ground, you can see things from a different perspective. You can offer suggestions, point out foot holds. You can remind him that there is a world outside the well worth working towards. If you are content with where you are, and believe in his capabilities, soon he will find his way out of the well. When he does, it be HIS victory. He gets to be the hero of his story, not you. Plus, he learns the meta skill of how to climb out of a well so when it happens again, he’ll know what to do.
Sometimes our ego gets in the way and we think we should be all things to our kids.
If your child is struggling with the academics of school and taking him off homework isn't a viable option for you, try delegating this job.
You could hire an educational consultant or tutor. You could hire a high school or college student to help. Grandma, your retired neighbor or someone off Craig’s List can be responsible for overseeing your child’s homework. Make sure your child approves of your choice because their motivation is HUGELY important. They may want older sibling to supervise or choose to Facetime their cousin or friend for help, great!
Watch and observe if your child needs help with the content, motivation, paying attention or just making it more fun, and delegate accordingly.
“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.” Sir Ken Robinson
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