Q: Why does my child fall apart the moment he walks in the door after school?

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A: Let’s think about the school day. The child spent anywhere from three to six hours at school, usually sitting, listening, interacting with others, trying to keep from being overwhelmed by sensations around them. That’s a lot of self-regulation for anyone. By the time they get home, they’ve had it. Their capacity for self-regulation is gone. They can’t do it anymore. That’s why they fall apart. They’re telling us they’re done. 

What can you do? Regardless of whether your child growls past you, welcome them warmly and tell them you’re happy to see them. Don’t judge and don’t be offended.

Suggest they go to a quiet place to recharge because it’s been a long day. Don’t be too wordy. They’ve probably had too much talking already.

Let them go to a quiet place where they can listen to music, watch a favorite video, or read a favorite book or just be quiet. Have some sensory objects available – hammocks are wonderful, ball pits are a favorite of many children, squishy objects are good as are favorite toys or stuffed animals. Give them uninterrupted time alone, time to recharge. Some ideas are presented below in Resources.  

After a while, offer them a snack that is both a sensory experience (maybe something crunchy or chewy) and nourishing. Don’t push. Just offer. Leave the snack close by.

After a while, if your child isn’t coming around, offer them something enticing. You might suggest more snack, a meal, watching television with the family, playing a sport …. You want to make sure they’ve recharged but don’t stay in isolation.

In a funny way, you can look at your child’s falling apart when they arrive home as a positive thing. It’s an indication that they feel comfortable and safe enough to let go. That is, home is a safe place where I can be myself.    

Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

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