Are you sending a little one to kindergarten for the first time this year? This time last year, we were gearing up to send our twin boys to kindergarten for the first time. The boys had been to preschool, and they were used to being away from home for a few hours, but they’d never been gone for a whole school day at once.
I had my reservations about sending my boys to all-day kindergarten. I even found a school that offered a half-day kindergarten program and signed the kids up there. But, in the summer before they started kindergarten, they dropped their afternoon naps for good, and I could see that they were ready to go for the whole day.
We did all that we could to prepare for the start of the school year. We talked about what kindergarten would be like. We went to the school twice over the summer to walk around, meet the teachers, and help the boys imagine the coming school year.
On the first day, we were ready! I dropped the boys off with no tears (from me – the boys were all about going!), and I stayed for the start-of-the-year chapel assembly at the school. I watched my little kindergarteners as they blended right in with their new school environment.
Everything seemed great until…
As teacher brought all of the kids out to meet up with their parents, I could see my boys doing their best to follow directions and learn the new pick-up routine. When they saw me, they smiled and gave me huge hugs. It was all good!
As we walked back to the car, they started to whine and argue with each other. It all escalated until they were in the car and one of the boys had a total meltdown.
I chalked it up to being tired after the first day of school.
But it continued on for days, weeks, even months.
Luckily a wise mom told me that having meltdowns after a full day of school was totally normal for kindergarteners. Here’s why they do it:
- They’ve been working really hard at being good all day, and they’re worn out.
- They’re stressed by a new routine. Even if it’s a good thing, they’re still expending emotional energy by adapting to something that’s very new to them.
- They feel comfortable around you. They feel like it’s okay to have a much needed cry or temper tantrum with you, as opposed to with a teacher they’re still getting to know.
Adapting to the end-of-the-day grouchies was tough on our family. After a while I learned to expect it, and I did my best to try to lessen the meltdowns. Here’s some things I did that helped:
- Snacks and water. I had them in the car, and as soon as the boys were in their carseats, I let them eat something in the car.
- Going right home after school as much as possible. This created a predictable routine for the boys.
- Doing something active or totally vegging out after school. This depends on your children, and you’ll soon start to see what your kids need. One of my sons really needed to be active after school, and one of my sons liked to play quietly or watch a show.
- Using the pickup lines at school. I used to meet the boys at the school gate and walk them back to the car, but when I learned that I could drive up to the school, and the boys could just hop in the car, I started doing that. It cut down on a lot of crying and tantruming in the parking lot at school.
After a few months, the after-school meltdowns subsided. After breaks in our routine, we’d sometimes have a relapse as the kids re-adjusted again. For one of my sons, Mondays were always rough.
I wish I would have known about the after-school meltdowns before the boys started school, but now that I think about it, it totally makes sense. It’s actually kind of a compliment that our kids feel comfortable enough around us to let their true feeling show, even though it’s really hard on the parents!
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