I'm sure I'm not alone in the feeling that for some parents, the fastest part of the day during the week is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This window of freedom is structured for ultimate productivity - completing all the tasks that are easier done without kids in tow, the ones you were meant to do yesterday and as many of today's as you can cross off the list, until 2:59 p.m.
School grounds quiet... then out of the classroom bounds bodies and limbs, gigantic bags with lunch boxes exposed, shoes tucked under arms and wet artwork to show.
Home at last for a chilled afternoon....... and then it starts.
A flood of colourful emotions and unreasonable requests are released from the depths of my child. Irritable and out-of-sorts, aggressive and reactive to say the least, requesting comfort but lashing out!
"What the what? Where did that come from"? How do I respond to this tantrum I thought.
Timeout, cool down, go to your room? Punishments? Consequences? No screen time, No ice cream! Should I call off the play date or cancel Christmas completely? Stomp my feet, count to 3? Pull a tantrum myself? Or threaten with the old 'wait till your father gets home'!
Then I remembered.. The l.O.V.E response.
I sank to his level and looked for his eyes, welcoming the message he needed to share.
Whats really going on?
I looked past the noise and into his world.
Reserves are low and emotions are high for these little people after a whole day at school. It is a long time you know form 9 till 3. It's a big deal following instructions all day, sitting still when it feels more natural to move, understanding social cues and initiating play. Not being picked for bull rush but being picked on by the class bully. New substitute teacher with different expectations and the class goldfish floats upside down. Speeches are looming and cross-country cones are marked out.
There was no need to ask, how was your day? what did you learn or where did you play?
With my new perspective the next step was easy.
"You've had such a big day at school you must be so hungry" as wet eyes looked up at me with a faint hearted "yes"
Would you like a snack or a game first? I asked "your choice" I added.
"you won't beat me" he said picking himself up and opening the games cabinet.
Just like that the storm had passed.
Having kept it together from 9 till 3 this child just needed to unravel, and was waiting for me. The person he knows best that can handle his worst, and giving words back to him that describe his feelings inside.
So I challenge you, parent, to welcome the after school unraveling, see it as an opportunity to role model maturity and emotional regulation. Be the calm during your child's emotional storm and you'll soon see them develop the self control needed to process their day.