Don't you just want to do a major eye-roll when you see a Disney Channel show with perfectly put-together kids coming home from school with huge grins on their faces as they stroll into the kitchen and talk about their day? What planet do those kids come from, anyway? Because here on earth, children get into the car or off the bus at 3:00 p.m. and immediately launch into a major after-school meltdown. Tears may or may not be involved; attitude definitely is. They don't want to do their homework. There's nothing good to eat. Their best friend dropped them for someone else. You made them wear that dorky sweater. Whatever the reason, absolutely nothing is right with their world, and you're the lucky recipient of their wrath.
As stressful as it may be to have your child go into meltdown mode, take heart in the fact that you're not the only one going through this. In fact, in a way, it's good that your kids lose it in front of you; it means that they feel safe around you. "The bad news is that kids tend to save their most difficult behavior for their parents," licensed social worker Katie Hurley told PBS. "The silver lining is that they trust us to help them through those trying moments and to love them anyway."
What sets them off? Put yourself in your child's shoes. You have to spend long hours sitting at a desk or table, listening to teachers ramble on. You have to be on your best behavior, or else. You have to eat and use the bathroom on a strict schedule. And when things go wrong, like a tough quiz or a busted backpack, mom isn't there to help until much later. It's a heck of a lot for a child to handle.
Registered psychologist Vanessa Lapointe explained to the Huffington Post that after-school meltdowns are what's known as "defensive detachment." When loved ones aren't immediately available to help soothe or help a child, the child deals with that hurt and disappointment by lashing out in an effort to avoid more pain when the loved one returns. The stress and fatigue of a long school day don't make matters any better.
Happily, there are ways to keep the peace at home after the last bell rings, which will make life better for both your kids and you. Here are some expert-approved strategies to try: