After School—Keys to a Happy Transition Each Day

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Something that surprised me when my children started attending school was how challenging the hour or two after school could be some days.

After 6 hours in school (6 hours and 25 minutes, actually, but who’s counting?) my usually happy little ones would exhibit crankiness, sadness, and fatigue. They generally struggled to transition into their afternoon of homework or after-school activities.

It soon became clear to me that insisting on homework five minutes after they walked in the door wasn’t ideal, nor was relentlessly asking them how their day had gone. Rather, allowing for a gentle welcome back to their warm home and providing some freedom and peace to unwind in made for happier kids and better afternoons.

As the new school year kicks off, here are some ideas to consider when your children come home from school.

A Soft Place to Fall

I remember back in the day, psychologist and talk show host Dr. Phil appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss relationships. He talked about partners ideally maintaining “a soft place to fall” for one another. 

I’ve always liked that vision of providing “a soft place to fall” for our loved ones. This is what I think our kids need when they come home from school.

They’ve been cooped up inside, sitting for long hours, directed by adults all day, tied to a strict and often rushed schedule, and soaked in an environment that likely requires patience and tolerance to navigate through at times.

As parents, rather than continuing the trend of rushing through the day and ticking items off a to-do list, perhaps we can keep softness in mind and cushion their transition home by simply slowing down and being gentle, kind, and compassionate.

Warmth of Home

The state of our homes can affect our internal well-being. A study at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that clutter restricts one’s ability to focus and limits one’s ability to process information.

You likely don’t need research to tell you that operating in a clear and clean space is less stressful than one that is messy and chaotic.

Welcoming our children into a clutter-free home, then, can be beneficial.

I’ve found that playing calm music, lighting candles, and keeping the artificial light sparse also adds to a calm and peaceful environment at home.

Pause the Interrogation

It took me a little too long to get the hint that my after school questions (“How was your day? What did you do at recess? Did you enjoy your lunch? How was art class? How are your friends doing?) were exhausting to my children rather than encouraging or helpful as I assumed.

Replace the well-intentioned interrogation with hugs and smiles, soft speech, and calm actions. Let them come home and just be. As they day goes on, they’ll share and communicate with you when they are ready.

Allow Time to Decompress

I also used to think that it was important to get homework out of the way as quickly as possible. Let’s just get it over with so we can enjoy the rest of our day, right?

While waiting too long to begin homework can lead to frustrating evenings for sure, buffering the time between arriving home and beginning homework with relaxation can be oh so helpful for your children.

Offering a healthy snack and water and allowing your children to enter their home and decompress after their school day can make all the difference.

Don’t Overschedule

After-school activities can provide amazing opportunities for children to explore their interests and learn new things. It doesn’t take long, however, before the time these activities eat up does more harm than good.

Be extremely selective when it comes to committing your children’s time. Don’t loose sight of the fact that those activities will replace time for free play which is vital to their growth and, quite possibly, more valuable than the activities you’ve signed them up for.

Wishing you and your children a wonderful school year and happy after-school transitions!

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