Family life

Taming the after-school beast

Jennifer’s son is having a hard time adjusting to the demands of a full day of Grade One and she wants to know how your kids are holding up so far this school year.

By Jennifer Pinarski
Taming the after-school beast

Photo by Gerry via Flickr.

Right now my five-year-old son is tucked into bed with his favourite blanket and his stuffed animals set carefully in a circle around him to keep bad dreams away. I think he’s even drooling a little. He’s quiet and still and so peaceful — you’d never guess that just 20 minutes earlier he was kicking a wall, biting his sister and throwing his toys. And I’m having a much-needed glass of wine because, well, this first week of Grade One is tough.
Isaac is your stereotypical first born — eager to please, gentle and loves to help others. Just the other day I got a call from his teacher to tell me what a pleasure he is to have in the classroom. So who is this kid (ironically, sharing a name with the recent hurricane), who for the first time ever, took a chomp out of his baby sister’s arm? Where is the sweet boy I put on the bus two weeks ago?
I should have known this personality change was coming. A girlfriend who spent many years teaching Grade One, warned me that the physical and mental demands on kids can turn the sweetest child into a maniac. “No, not my boy”, I thought. But I was wrong and, try as I might, I’m trying to figure out how to put my son back on track or at try and tame the temper tantrums. Earlier bedtimes have helped a bit (but I admit depositing him in his bunk bed at 5:30 p.m. when the acting out first started might have been excessive). Our mealtimes are together at the table as a family, where we try a get him to talk about his day and I’ve clamped down on screen time in favour of more outdoor play and reading. I feel like I’ve done all I can to help reduce the stress he’s feeling, but I’m still at a loss.
For better or worse, I’m not alone. Here are some responses I got:
Jessica: I like to think the reason my son has an evil witching hour after school is because he's been on his best behavior all day and just can't contain himself any longer.
Danielle: It's all about bed times — our kids go to bed EARLY by everyone else's standard, but by ours, we dictate bedtime by mood. I also let my kids have a chill out quiet time on the sofa after school since we have very busy evening activities; waterpolo, swimming and gymnastics almost every day. So our kids definitely need a rest. Homework gets done just before dinner.
Angie: We homeschool now but last year my six-year-old would come home exhausted and sapped of life after school.
Melissa: My son started full day Early Learning JK this year and is definitely feeling it. Some take until Christmas to adjust.
Terri W: My son is crying because my daughter kissed his head. Does that answer your question?
But I think Kim, mom of two, said it best: You know you have a good kid when he respects others by behaving well, and a safe home when he feels safe expressing his true feelings there.
In the meantime, I’ll follow the tips to prevent after-school meltdowns that Today’s Parent offered up (higher protein lunches and keeping his little sister out of his hair so he can chill out on his own), and trust that, like every other difficult stage in parenting, this too will pass.

Photo by Gerry via Flickr.
This article was originally published on Sep 17, 2012

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