Is Your Child Ready To Go Back To School?

Are you kids back in school? Are you as excited as I am to have some form of normalcy back?

I have had my kids home with my since March 2020. I’ve been running the business full time. I homeschooled my 1st grader last year and he’s starting grade 2 on Monday.

I had my youngest running around, he was supposed to be in Jr. kindergarten last year.

In fact last year was supposed to be the first year both my kids were in school full time but that got pushed to this year!

Therefore, I’m quite excited!

I have grown Uncommon Sense Parenting from nothing to what it is today with both my kids in tow, working around their needs and schedules.

It’s been fantastic!

I can not stress enough how grateful I am to have been able to be home with my kids and growing this amazing community simultaneously.

That being said, I am really looking forward to being able to have some separation, alone time, and some dedicated time to focus on my business.

This is something I haven’t had since before I had kids. The few times I’ve been able to really sit down and focus for a full day because my kids were with my Mom or their Dad took them to the cottage or something, I have gotten so much done just in one day.

I am REALLY excited for all the awesome things I am not going to have the bandwidth to do to support you, now that I’ll have pretty much 8 hours a day without interruptions.

This is very exciting for me! I hope you are excited to have your kids be back in school too.

I know for many of you in the States you’ve already been in school for almost a month now.

Those of you in Oz and New Zealand are smack in the middle of your school year still.

Here in Ontario, as I said, we go back to school after labour day, which is the first Monday of September.

Something almost all families experience is something called restraint collapse.

If you’ve already started school you may still be experiencing this, if you’re not back yet you certainly will experience this over the next month.

Restraint collapse is what happens when your child has been exerting a tonne of energy to keep themselves safe throughout the day.

When I say safe I don’t mean to imply that your child is in danger at school.

If you’ve followed me for a while now, you know that our limbic system is constantly scanning our environment for danger.

This takes a lot of ENERGY! Stress is energy expenditure.

There are several blog posts on this topics where I expand on this further.

All that’s to say, being with strangers all day is stressful.

It costs us a lot of energy.

When we’re with our parents or familiar care providers, we don’t have to expend as much energy making sure we’re safe. We trust the adults in charge and even our friends to take on some of that for us.

Many brains make light work. It takes a while to get to that level of comfort with your teacher and classmates.

Therefore for the first three months of school, your child is going to be unusually exhausted at the end of the day. This is because they’re having to expend a higher amount of energy while they settle in, get to know their teachers and peers, the new expectations and routine, etc.

All of this will generally manifest as a big old meltdown when they get home from school.

They’re going to be beat and when we’re exhausted, we go into defence mode.

We lose access to that civilized part of our brain that has reason and knowledge and language and critical thought. This part of our brain isn’t necessary for survival. It’s nice, but it’s not necessary.

Our limbic system is what keeps us safe and runs all our automatic bodily functions, it’s necessary for survival. If we’re low on energy our brain shuts down the unnecessary bits and sends the dregs of our energy to the necessary bits.

This means that your child is going to be behaving more like a feral animal than a human being when they get back. They’re going to be relying on us to compensate for their lack of energy. I’m safe at home, I know I’m not going to be attacked, so I don’t have to waste energy on that anymore!

This makes for a pretty miserable after school experience for pretty much person in the family if all the kids are coming home and losing their minds.

How can we transition them out of school and into home and refill their cup enough that they can get through their evening?No BBQs, no activities, no playdates.

Tip #1: This is not the time to be making after school comments

Try to keep their out of school time as unbusy as possible for the first month.

They need time to decompress. They need time to process. For the first bit, just keep it low key.

Have simple dinners, let them play outside and chill in their room, because they need a chance to refill that tank.

I remember when my oldest started kindergarten, he came home after his first day and he took off his backpack and he put his shoes away and he went and washed his hands, and then he went straight downstairs to where we had a ball pit, and he turned off all the lights and he crawled into the ball pit and wiggled his way down to the bottom and he just stayed there for like an hour.

I checked in on him and was like “hey…you okay?” and he was like “yeah…I just need a break.” and I was like cool.

Now, I’ve been working with my oldest to recognize how much energy he’s got and manage it since he was 2. So at almost 5 he had a pretty solid handle on it, and he was able to keep it together while at school and even after he got home…

But he hit a wall, hard.

Where he went and laid in a ball pit, if he’d had less practice regulating himself he would have had a meltdown. Heck, even with how good he is at regulating, he’d have had a meltdown if I’d tried to usher him into the car to go to swimming lessons or hockey practice or scouts.


Do everyone a favour, and just clear your calendar for that first month so they have space to decompress when they get home.

Tip #2: Shut up!

I say this with all the love in my heart, zip your lips.

I get it, we’re excited to have them home. We want to know how the day went and if they made any friends and what their teacher’s name is and if their friends are in their class and, and, and…

But give them a hot second to decompress before you start bombarding them with questions.

This doesn’t just apply to restraint collapse!

I generally find if I ask kids questions right as they get home, that they say ‘I don’t know’ or ignore me, at any time of year.

This is because they’re tired! They don’t know!

Our rule in our house is we don’t ask questions before dinner time. If they have something to tell me before then I’ll happily listen, but we wait till we’re all sitting at the dinner table to ask how everyone’s day was and swap war stories.

This gives them a chance to get some more energy, process the day, bring that neocortex back online and formulate a coherent thought pattern. I just get a lot more out of kids if I wait a bit longer to ask them for information. I generally get a lot more voluntary information so it’s not like pulling teeth.

Tip #3: Move Bedtime Up

I know, they’ve been gone all day and we only get a couple hours with them before bed but if one of those hours is spent in a screaming match over brushing teeth it’s not actually benefiting your relationship!

Put them to bed early!

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go to sleep early, but do all the administrative work around bedtime early and then focus on winding down as a family.

In our house we like to read a chapter of a book together, my husband and I swap who’s reading, and then my boys do candle breath.

Candle breath is a simple activity where we light them each a candle they each have a small beeswax candle. They make the flame dance by taking deep breaths and then slowly blowing out so that the flame of their candle dances but doesn’t go out. We put on some gentle music and they do that for the length of the song, and then I kiss them and say goodnight and we put on some guided meditations on their smart speaker and leave.

Sometimes they get up and play. Most of the time they lay down and listen to the stories.

Do they actually go to sleep earlier? Not really.

However, we’re done with all the teeth brushing and bath having and skincare about an hour earlier so that we can spend that last hour helping them wind down and relax.

It makes it a much gentler and more positive transition into sleep.

As my kids adjust to school I anticipate we’ll start doing some stuff like the Big Life Journal and other more quiet but not so focused on getting them to sleep activities.

TIP #4: Feed them… QUICKLY!

There are 3 basic needs we all have: sleep, elimination, and FOOD.

Have a protein-rich snack ready to stuff in their face.

It can even be something that would be part of their dinner typically just to break it up a bit.

I’ve given my kids their meat and a small salad as an after-school snack so that when we sit down for dinner they can just eat their veggies and carbs which they much prefer.

Most kids are ravenous especially those who take the school bus because they’re not allowed to eat on it.

Getting food in them quickly can be the difference between complete nuclear meltdown and just needing a bit of alone time.

Try to keep it consistent!

Some kids really can’t handle the minor surprise of what their after school snack will be. Often giving them the same thing every day is a really good idea.

My four tips for dealing with restraint collapse:

  1. Minimize your child’s after school activities, at least for the first three months.
  2. Do not bombard them with questions right after school, allow them time to decompress from the day.
  3. Move up bedtime, they do not need to sleep earlier, but allow an earlier down time will help in the long run.
  4. Have an after school snack ready and try to keep it consistent!

Is there anything you do after school to manage the low energy that I missed?

I’d love to know in the comments or come join us in the Parenting Posse and we can continue the conversation over there!

You are always welcome to join the Parenting Posse. I have some big plans for the group, so you wouldn’t want to miss it!

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About Allana

Hi, I’m Allana. I teach parents of toddlers and preschoolers why their children are misbehaving and what to do about it without yelling, shaming, or using time-outs. When not teaching parents about behaviour you can generally find me chasing around my two boys, reading cheesy romance novels, or hanging out with my own parents.

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