My daughter is only two years old. However, I started to see that every day around noon, she was happy but then something happened–she started to have meltdowns for no reason.
I was trying to decode her behavior because having a toddler crying every day for no reason wasn’t the ideal situation. At first, I thought she hadn’t had a good day with her online classes. I even asked the teacher if she was acting in the same way during class. But no, she was totally happy!
What’s really happening?
I started to believe that she was so happy during her virtual classes that she didn’t want them to end and she was expressing it by crying. But actually this wasn’t the problem. After-school or daycare meltdowns–even if school is virtual–is real deal and many kids totally lose it. It’s a behavior called after-school restraint collapse.
Thinking carefully, it makes all sense in the world. Kids during school time have to act in a specific way and follow many rules. While they are at home the rest of the time they have more flexibility in their routines. It even happens with us as adults. We tend to only release our emotions in a place where we feel safe, like home. We avoid having any meltdowns at work.
When I arrive home after a long day at work, the last thing I am thinking is about more rules, restrictions, and schedules. I just want to relax. The same is happening to my daughter. When she finishes her virtual school, I generally ask her to clean up. But she feels exhausted and the meltdown starts.
How to handle it
One thing that helped me a lot with the after-school meltdowns is to be more flexible with after-class routines. For example, if she wants to take a bath at 1 pm or at 5 pm, it’s ok with me. Also, I always try to give her a snack to avoid adding more elements that could cause a meltdown.
Additionally, after she finishes her classes, I give her a few minutes to play with whatever she wants. So she could feel free, at least for 10 minutes. If you have more time, look for indoor or outdoor play places, so your kid feels free to run and drain all their energy.
I always try to remember the importance of embracing her feelings. As kids, it’s not easy to understand and express our emotions. And there is no safer place to show and unleash those emotions than with our parents. That symbolizes trust and love.
Remember that after-class meltdowns are not tantrums. In these moments your child is not testing boundaries. It is just a consequence of feeling overwhelmed and fatigued due to a long school day.