Why children might be dysregulated after school and how to help them cope

Many children suffer from after-school restraint collapse.

Many children suffer from after-school restraint collapse. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

'After-school restraint collapse' is a real thing which affects many children. Here's how to help your child...

The teacher tells you that your child has been an angel all day, but you barely leave the school gates before it starts...

Some children become weepy, while others scream, throw things and become generally unreasonable. Older children might act rude and disrespectful, hurling insults at you and/or their siblings.

Sound familiar?

That's because it's a real thing and it's called after-school restraint collapse.

Children hold it together all day and only release their true emotions when they get to a safe place. That is with you - which is a compliment, although it probably doesn't feel like it at the time.

After-school restraint collapse is very common and can affect any child, but for children with additional needs, sensory difficulties, anxiety and other challenges, it can occur more regularly and can be more severe.

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Tiredness, hunger and illness can also trigger or exacerbate the problem.

It's also important to remember that the introduction of all of the protective measures, COVID-related changes and ongoing uncertainty, will all have taken their toll and increased the mental load for children at school. Therefore, their window of tolerance will be reduced, and the likelihood of after-school restraint collapse will be even greater this year

The most important thing to remember is that these outbursts are not tantrums where your child is testing the boundaries or trying to get their own way. Your child is so emotionally overwhelmed that they can no longer keep it together.

Here are six things that can help reduce after-school restraint collapse:

  • 1. Greet your child with a smile and not questions. They will tell you about their day when they are ready.
  • 2. They will most probably be hungry so have a snack and drink ready for the journey back, or when they get home.
  • 3. Give your child some time and space after pick-up.
  • 4. Try not to plan play dates or schedule activities for right after school.
  • 5. Give them some downtime so that they can process the day and regroup.~
  • 6. Make yourself available. They may not want to talk or to have a cuddle but it's important that they feel the connection and know that you are there.

Working with the school to support your child to feel more emotionally secure in school can be beneficial. Help your child to know all of the people who are there to support them in school and all of the ways that they can share their feelings, no matter how big or small. It's important to offer alternatives to just talking to the teacher though, as with 30 children in every class, this is not always possible.

Children can and should always feel able to ask to talk and can always talk to their friends at school as well as the playground and lunchtime staff. In addition to this they could draw or write their feelings on some paper and share it at school or save it for you when they get home.

This will reduce the after-school restraint collapse, as they are not holding in all of their feelings and although they may not have been shared, they have still been released.

Finally, make sure you are taking care of yourself as parents and carers.

If after-school restraint collapse has been a feature in your home for a long time, it is likely that you will feel your own anxiety and tension levels rising as home time approaches.

After-work restraint collapse is also real, so it is important that you tend to your own needs and are make yourself a priority before you welcome your child home.

If your child is struggling with any of their feelings, get in touch and let Jodie help make BIG feelings child size. Book your FREE initial consultation at www.sunnykidsshine.com, or email info@sunnykidsshine.com.