At a glance
It’s common for kids to fall apart when they come home from school.
Home may feel like a safe place to let it all out.
Kids can learn coping skills to deal with school stress.
It’s not uncommon: A child goes to school in a good mood, seems perfectly fine all day, and then comes home and falls apart. Yelling, whining, crying — it’s like a totally different child.
Why do kids who had an OK day at school unravel when they get home? Often, the reason is simple. Kids are wiped out, and home can be a safe place to lose it. Learn more about why kids fall apart after school.
What can cause afterschool outbursts
Being in school all day — whether in-person or virtual — is tiring for many kids. For some, it’s completely exhausting.
Kids spend the whole day trying to sit still, focus, answer questions, and do classwork. Plus there are rules and routines to keep in mind. And they have to try to get along with the other kids.
Kids don’t always have the self-control and coping skills to manage this stress. Some pick up these skills just by watching other people model them. But many kids — especially those who learn and think differently — need to be taught.
They may be more sensitive than others to school demands. Or they may be struggling with math, reading, or writing. By the end of the day, they don’t have any energy left to keep a lid on their feelings. And they may not even know they’re overwhelmed.
This situation isn’t all bad. It’s good when kids feel safe to express themselves at home. They trust that the people there will love them and help them learn to calm down no matter how they act.
How parents, caregivers, and teachers can help
To avoid blowing up after school, kids need to be able to express their feelings when they’re feeling them, not just at home. They need strategies to calm themselves when they get upset. Parents and teachers can work together to help kids build these skills.
But before teachers can help, they need to know what’s happening at home. That means parents and caregivers need to connect and explain what they’re seeing.
Parents and caregivers: Take notes on what you’re seeing at home to share with the teacher. Learn how to pick up on patterns in your child’s behavior.
For teachers: Take a closer look to see if the student is struggling in any areas, even if you’re not seeing signs of stress. Be aware of any bullying or teasing that’s going on.
If outbursts happen often or get worse, parents can talk with their child’s doctor. Health care providers can help figure out what’s behind the behavior and offer steps to take.
Managing afterschool outbursts
It’s not easy to see kids get upset or angry. Here are ways to help kids cope with overwhelming feelings at the end of the day.
Give an afterschool snack. Some kids get “hangry,” or cranky when they’re hungry. It can help to have a snack and a drink ready for afterschool, or to eat on the way home.
Sit in silence. Leave the questions about school for later. Most kids need some time to chill out before talking about their day.
Rethink the homework routine. Going straight from school into homework is hard. Playing or just doing nothing first lets them regroup.
Sometimes, outbursts can pick up steam and become more intense. Get tips for managing meltdowns and tantrums.
Kids may not yet know how to express their feelings when they feel them.
Simple self-soothing techniques can help kids calm themselves down.
Parents and teachers can teach kids self-control and coping skills.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.