By Jenna Kruse, LSW – Feb. 11, 2020

Each day after school you may ask your child, “How was your day at school?” Most parents are met with a response similar to, “It was fine.” You may continue to ask questions to try to find out what happened during the day to create this mood, but instead of sharing, your child may become frustrated and shut down.

This is a scenario that many parents know all too well. As a parent trying to engage in positive conversation with your child, it is very easy to take these short, frustrated responses personally.

The next step may be to ask your child’s teacher if they are acting out at school. When asked, the teacher may respond, “No, your child does very well all day and is very pleasant,” which leaves you even more puzzled as the parent experiencing these difficult afternoons.

Consider this: A typical day for an adult might include waking up early, getting ready for work, working all day, engaging in relationships with coworkers and family, answering questions, helping others…the list goes on and on. Students often experience the same challenges throughout the day. At school students are met with rules, expectations, and routine. They are also expected to focus intently, answer questions and make difficult decisions all day.

The difference between the adult and child, however, is the coping skills used to help face these daily demands. Most adults have positive coping skills that help them. Kids don’t always have those skills yet.

The following are simple ways parents can help their children conquer their afternoon struggles.

  1. Encouragement Over Questioning – After exerting much thought and energy, even some adults need silence after a long day of work. Children are no different. Offering a smile and an encouraging phrase such as, “I hope you had a great day” or “I’m happy to see you” instead of a string of questions helps children feel more relaxed. It is also important that parents become comfortable giving the child space and saving questions for dinner or after the child has had time to decompress from their day.
  • Brain Break – Allow your student a break between school and homework time. Students are often overstimulated from the school day. By providing students a break to color, listen to music, play outside or do a craft, they are able to relax their brain and body before they are asked to complete more work. A consistent homework routine also helps students know what is expected and decreases the chance they will argue when it is homework time.
  • Afternoon Snack – Provide your student with a healthy and nutritious snack after school. Some students eat lunch as early as 10:50 am. After exerting considerable energy all day students are often very hungry after school. Having a snack prepared helps you avoid them being “hangry” and sets you up for a more positive afternoon with your child.

By supporting your student in these ways you are fostering positive coping skills and routine, which are tools that will aid your student in their school years and beyond.