Parents often take the brunt of their children’s emotions. A frequent time for kids to meltdown, get angry, or even go silent is directly after leaving school or daycare. This trend in child behavior is known as after-school restraint collapse. 

After-school restraint collapse is a term created by parenting educator and counselor Andrea Loewen Nair of London, Ontario. It describes the sometimes unreasonable, disrespectful, or even recluse emotions kids express when returning to their safe place after school or daycare.  

Dealing With After-School Restraint Collapse 

Such emotions are bewildering for parents who see their kids joyously engaging with friends on the playground and receive positive reports from parents. Understanding why after-school restraint collapse occurs can help parents and children deal with it successfully.  

Who Experiences After-School Restraint Collapse? 

Psychotherapist Nany Brooks states that after-school restraint collapse is most common mong kids under 12. Many children grow out of this behavior as they mature. 

Registered psychologist and parenting educator Vanessa Lapointe adds that after-school restraint collapse can happen to all kids, but some are more susceptible. Lapointe explains that more sensitive children and those struggling with social or learning skills are more likely to experience this phenomenon. However, even the most mellow kids may experience after-school restraint collapse when tired or after a difficult day. 

Why Does After-School Restraint Collapse Occur? 

After-school restraint collapse is most common during the first few months of a new school year when kids adjust to new schedules, relationships, and learning environments. Although, it is not refined to this time of year and can occur at fluctuating times for varying children.  

Andrea Loewen Nair explained that the challenging behaviors kids release after school or daycare is due to the restraint they exhibit all day. They uphold social norms, follow the rules, listen, and sit still for hours. Kids often suppress feelings of fatigue, hunger, excess energy, and anxiety so as not to make a scene in a setting that may be disapproving.  

After-school restraint collapse occurs when children return to their safe place, often home, and unleash the stress and emotions they felt throughout the day. They may express these emotions through neediness, anger, detachment, disrespect, or complete meltdowns. 

What Can Parents Do to Help? 

Parents must understand that meltdowns due to after-school restraint collapse are not tantrums. Punishment worsens the fatigue or anxiety-ridden feelings a child feels at this time. Instead, experts such as Vanessa Lapointe suggest demonstrating calm behavior, allowing children space to express themselves, and validating their feelings.  

Children often return from school hungry and need nourishment for the body and mind. Prepare a healthy snack and hydrating drink for the ride home from school or when your child walks in the door.  

The next step is to find a way to help the child decompress. Help them unwind through any large or small activity they enjoy, such as shooting hoops in the driveway, listening to music, or telling favorite jokes.  

Lapointe states that a decompression routine, including a healthy snack, space for the child to relax, and a fun activity, can help families deal with after-school restraint collapse and even prevent it.

Helping Your Child Prevent the Collapse

After-school restraint collapse is prevalent and is nothing to be feared or punished. Experts agree that a child’s reaction to the difficulties they experience throughout a school day is best met with love, acceptance, and understanding. To learn more about after-school restraint collapse, see the accompanying resource.

Infographic created by Pathway Christian Prep Academy

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