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Dealing with those after-childcare 'big' feelings

Why do our children sometimes express some big bursts of negative moods after they come home from a seemingly fun day at childcare? You expect them to come home happy and excited to tell you all about their day of crafts, books, playtime and outings, after all, you often get reports that your child was an angel all day. But when he or she comes home, that angel seems to have taken those wings and flown away, being replaced with something not so angelic.

Some child experts call it ‘after-school restraint collapse’, and it seems to happen because children hold it together all day in childcare. Children use a lot of energy being well-behaved, following direction, sitting still, retaining information, and all of this without their primary attachment figures, their parents/caregivers. It can also simply be that some children meltdown because they are tired or overstimulated.

This leaves your child’s best opportunity to release their emotions when they get to a safe place, their home. Those emotions can take the shape of crying fits, whining, screaming, disrespect or physically acting out to parents or siblings.

“I always say to parents, ‘do you have a best friend, someone you let all your emotions out when you see them? You are this to your child and when they see you after a big, busy day at Kindy, it all comes out,’” says Libby Kissell, a lead educator with our Redland Bay South campus.

“Rest assured they had an amazing day, but they let it all out when they see you because YOU are their person, their safe zone.”

Young children haven’t yet developed the essential brain wiring or had the necessary life experience to be able to calm themselves down from big feeling states, which is why they experience such frequent meltdowns. They know they can do this at home because they’re in a place where they’re loved and supported.

But also know your child is loved and supported at Little Scholars, talk to us if you’re struggling and we can think and discuss how to make things easier for your little one.

“As an adult we come home from a big day at work and we just want time to ourselves to zone out and not have to think,” says Holly Medbury, an educator from our Stapylton campus.

“We might even get annoyed if people want our attention, kids feel the same, but often have difficulty expressing it. Children are little people with big emotions, they too need some time to ‘chill out’ or a friend to be there and hug, with no expectations. It’s just reassurance for parents out there that they are doing an amazing job and providing useful strategies to help children cope with their big emotions.”

How to help

How can parents help a child who experiences this after-care restraint collapse?

  • You can send them to their centre with a comfort toy or blanket that they can reach for when they need it. You could also send them with a picture of their family, or a note in their bag telling them how proud you are of them and how much you love them
  • Spend an extra five to 10 minutes with them before they start their day at Little Scholars. Just a few connected minutes with your child can make a significant difference in their day
  • Have a conversation with them on the way to childcare or when you get to their centre that focuses on what they can look forward to after you pick them up later, maybe that conversation looks like, ‘When I come to get you, would you like to go to the park or go pick out some new books to read at the library?’
  • Bring a snack for the trip home, sometimes hunger can be distracting for them and can stir up emotions
  • When you pick them up, maybe all they need is a big reassuring hug. Maybe they need quiet. Maybe they’d like to tune out to some music they enjoy for a few minutes. Maybe they need to relax on a park bench or burn some energy at the playground. Follow their lead and take some time before asking questions about their day.

Again, feel free to talk to your educators about what’s happening at home. We have an open-door policy and we’re here for you. Your child’s educators, after spending time with your little one, may have specific ideas on how to help your child or can try to dedicate some quality time with your child to help them relax and feel cared for.

By understanding a little better why there are strong feelings coming from your child after a day of childcare, you are better armed to handle it or even moderate reactions before their start.

For more information:

Taming tantrums at home – ParentTV

Why punishing your child may not be beneficial – ParentTV

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