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After School Meltdowns

How restraint collapse may be contributing to your child's after-school meltdowns and how to support them

What is After-school Restraint

For many children, the school day is spent:

  • Sitting still and paying attention

  • Following directions

  • Learning and retaining new information

  • Upholding expectations and trying to please teachers and peers

  • Maintaining social connections and friendships

  • Managing and processing large amounts of sensory input

  • Trying to regulate their body's needs (food, toileting, temperature), around a busy timetable

  • Bottling up frustrations, insecurities, excitement, boredom, and a whole spectrum of other feelings

AND...for many they are still learning how to self-regulate without their main source of comfort - YOU!

The result of this is that when children come home at the end of the day they are often exhausted and dysregulated. The huge effort it has taken to restrain all these emotions begins to take its toll and they "collapse". This can look different for different children and be intensified for neuro-diverse children. While some children may become argumentative or emotional, others may be withdrawn and quiet. Simply put, they are now in a place and with people they feel safe to let it all out.

So, what is the answer?

Ah, here's the thing - there is no magic answer. When the manual on "how to be a perfect parent" is released, we will be first in line. There are, however, some things to keep in mind:

  • You know your child best, adjust your response based on what you know they need most

    • When overwhelmed, do they respond best to movement and activity or quiet time to reset?

  • Prioritise empathy

    • For your child: patience and understanding will have more positive results than punishment or reprimanding

    • For you: remember, you're only human and you too had a long day - you can only respond with the resources and energy you have at the time - so, be kind to yourself

  • Be patient

    • With your child: Allow them time to process their day before you expect them to bounce back or share about it

    • With yourself: What works one day, may not work the next - celebrate yourself for showing up each day and trying your best!

General Tips


Start with yourself: What do you need before pick up time to centre and ready yourself? Prioritise taking a moment for yourself to ensure you are ready for wherever your child is at. Make sure you have a plan for after-school snacks and transition times.

Do less

Rather than beginning with questions about the day, or organisational chores, keep your expectations and routines as simple as possible. Your child may respond best to quiet time, or maybe they require your undivided attention, but meet them where they are at to the best of your ability and allow them time to recharge.

Prioritise connection and consistency

At both drop-off and pick-up time having consistent and predictable routines helps limit anxiety. You might even want to try a connection ritual, like a secret handshake, hug or phrase for saying goodbye and welcoming home.

What Next...

  • Read the tips in our social media posts (below or on FB and instagram)

  • Remember, that while after-school restraint collapse is common, there may still be other factors - don't hesitate to reach out to your child's teacher, GP or other supports if you are concerned for your child

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