Research shows it’s only natural for kids to release their emotional, mental, and
physical energy as soon as the school day ends. After all, they had to show a lot of
self-control during the school day.
This year, in particular, after-school restraint collapse is to be expected in
school-age kids. Children heading to in-person school this year will be
adjusting to lots of differences. Kids tackling the challenge of fully-remote
the school will be missing friends and adjusting to more screen time. Kids in
hybrid school or learning pods will need to adapt to learning in a brand-new
way. Whatever school looks like for your child this year, the likelihood is that
it won’t be a familiar, trusted, safe routine—and they may need to let off some
serious steam after school hours are over.
After-school restraint collapse is extremely common in kids under 12, says
psychotherapist Nancy Brooks, and (thankfully) lessens as children develop more
Until then, the symptoms of after-school restraint collapse are likely familiar to
parents of young children: “When they come home from school they will regress
emotionally,” says Brooks. “They will act younger than their age and whine, cry,
throw tantrums, act needy, moody and generally have a meltdown. They will look
and behave as if they are exhausted.”
How you can help ease the after-school transition. At the end of the school day, most of us parents are eager to ask all about the day. But that may be the last thing a child needs for a while, says Haynes. “Give
children time to get a snack [and] relax their minds,” she explains. “Offer your
child a physical activity directly after school. Sports, yoga, or walking are great
releases that help to balance the mind and body." Homework can also
wait and will probably be done better as a result of a brain break.
Parents should be aware of how we act when we get home, as our kids are likely to
model our behavior. If we’re irritable as soon as we walk in the house our kids
will likely follow suit. (After-work restraint collapse is real, too!)
“Try to use your car ride home to decompress from the day and to allow yourself to
be ‘fresh’ for your family when you walk through the door.” You can even do
this together with your kids.