‘Restraint Collapse’ Why Kids Melt Down After School: Experts Say, It’s A Positive Sign



Children experiencing meltdowns when they return home from school is a common phenomenon known as “restraint collapse.” Experts shed light on why this happens and how parents can navigate it effectively.

Why Kids Experience Restraint Collapse After School?

Dr. Gene Beresin, the executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, explained that these meltdowns are specific to the transition from a structured school environment to the comfort of home. They are distinct from tantrums, which are typically used to achieve a desired outcome.

This after-school meltdown occurs because children often exert immense effort at school to conform to rules, routines, and societal expectations. Maintaining this composure can be mentally exhausting. When they return home, they may feel safe enough to release their pent-up emotions, resulting in meltdowns.

The meltdowns can manifest in various ways, from crying and whining to anger, aggression, defiance, or shutting down. Older kids might withdraw and slam doors, refusing to communicate about their feelings.

Several factors contribute to these meltdowns, including over-scheduling with extracurricular activities. To address them, parents can follow some essential strategies:

  1. Manage Emotions: Parents should remain calm during their child’s meltdown to prevent escalation. Attempting to intervene or interrogate the child while they are upset is counterproductive. Instead, parents should wait until the child calms down to engage in a conversation.
  2. Show Empathy: Parents should express understanding and empathy towards their child’s emotional state. Offering comfort, such as hugs or engaging in calming activities like reading or drawing together, can help.
  3. Healthy Snacks: Sometimes, meltdowns may be caused by hunger or thirst. Providing a soothing and nutritious snack can be beneficial.
  4. Reframe Behavior: Parents should reframe meltdowns as a sign of trust from their child, recognizing that the child feels safe enough to express their true emotions. Avoid taking meltdowns personally.
  5. Ensure Adequate Sleep: A lack of sleep can contribute to irritability in children. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine and ensuring sufficient sleep can mitigate meltdowns.
  6. Be Present: When children return home, parents should make an effort to be fully present, offering eye contact, a warm welcome, and bonding moments, even if brief.
  7. Model Behavior: Parents can model coping strategies for handling challenging situations by narrating their own experiences and demonstrating healthy ways to manage emotions.

In conclusion, after-school meltdowns are a common occurrence, often indicating that children feel safe and comfortable expressing their true emotions at home.

Parents can navigate these meltdowns by remaining calm, showing empathy, and modeling healthy coping strategies.

Ensuring proper sleep, providing snacks, and creating a warm and welcoming environment also contribute to managing and preventing these meltdowns effectively.

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