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How to fight the after-school funk
Erin Stewart writes that having a healthy snack for her daughters to eat right when they get home for school is key in helping them overcome the after-school funk. - photo by Erin Stewart
The after-school funk is hitting our house pretty hard right now.

This is the magical time when my kids get home from school, and if I even look at them wrong, they will collapse into tears or begin punching a sibling simply for existing. This after-school meltdown has been particularly hard for my first-grader, who is doing her first year of full-day school.

After seven hours, she comes home cranky, sassy and ready to pick a fight with anyone who wants one.

The bad thing about this after-school funk is that its funkiness tends to determine how the entire afternoon and evening will go. If we get off to a good start, then well have a relaxing, fight-free night. If the after-school moodiness bleeds into the evening, its going to be bickering and eye-rolling mixed with some flailing on the couch until bedtime.

So Ive been focusing a lot of my energy lately on making sure that first hour or even just the first 10 minutes home from school is as drama-free as possible.

Heres the game plan so far:

First, offer sustenance. My kids come home basically starving every day, so the key to heading off the first few minutes of complaining is to get food in their bellies as quickly as possible. If I have a healthy snack waiting for them at home, they sit right down and dont have time to get in an argument about who was walking through the door first or to beg for a piece of candy.

Second, restrain from asking a million questions. This one is tough for me, but Ive found that if I just hold back a little, my kids will open up more. If I set in with the How was your day? or How did that test go? then my children clam up, and Im lucky to even get a fine tossed my way. When I do ask questions, I make sure they are very specific like What was your favorite thing you did at recess today? or Who did you sit by at lunch?

Third, give them some space. My kids need some downtime when they get home. If I start rattling off a to-do list for the afternoon, they immediately shut down. But if I just let them have even a few minutes to just kind of meander around the house, smother their brother with kisses or stare out the window while eating apples, then they are better able to tackle any chores, homework or activities.

For the most part, my biggest contribution to busting up the after-school funk is to fight every single one of my natural instincts. I force myself not to smother my kids the second they walk in, even though Ive missed them immensely. I try to be present and available to them, but I step back and let them re-acclimate to life outside of school.

When I can do that, the funk seems to dissipate faster, and rather than fighting, we can all just be happy to be home together.

How do you help your kids transition from school to home in the afternoon?
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