Thursday, August 19, 2010

Elementary My Dear Watson!

Elaina has been in Kindergarten for 4 days now and I know some of you mommies out there are sending your child to school for the first time and may be wondering what to expect... especially when your little one arrives back home and has the worst meltdown you've ever seen.

Now I don't know if every child is like that but every experienced mom I've spoken with has had the same thing happen with their elementary-aged children, especially the youngest of the bunch which would be preschool through 1st grade. But the older ones can most definitely hit rock bottom the moment they get through the door as well.

Their day is filled with activity and is typically fast-paced depending on what type of school they are immersed in. Their senses are tickled all day long, they're around other kids with differing personalities, they are encouraged to run and play and be active, they're being taught to be social and how to behave with one another, their minds are being challenged... it is a BIG day to be in Kindergarten!

So what does your little one do when they get in the door? They may melt to the floor in a fit of tears for no good reason, they may get snappy and irritable with you, they may push their siblings away and pick fights, they may even just fall onto the couch and start snoring! This is when you have to be really careful how you respond. The best thing to do is to get into your child's tiny shoes and see their day from their perspective. Or perhaps compare it to your own work day. I don't know about you but when dinnertime hits I've reached my limit for the day! I'm tired, cranky and just want to be left alone. Similarly your child needs some space to unwind.

So here are my 3 tips for getting Elaina home in a happy mood! And I hope they help you with your little one, whether they're going to school this year or in the future.

1). Have a snack ready! Even though Elaina gets snacks at school she is incredibly more active at school than at home which means her little body needs more energy food. Cut up some fruit, put PB on some celery, grab a glass of milk and have it ready for them. A high protein snack is a great idea! And remember your child probably isn't getting nearly as much fluids as they need so give them lots of water (refrain from juice, soda and other beverages!). This will get your child's blood sugars level for [hopefully] less meltdowns. I also ask Elaina to take her shoes and socks off the moment she gets home and to wash her hands with soap in order to get her snack as part of the routine.

2). Give them space! Try to refrain from bombarding them with a million questions about their day. They need time to process the day in their little minds and may be overwhelmed by all the new lights, faces, names, smells, foods, etc. I wait until we've started eating dinner to ask about everyones' day. However if they are willing and ready to talk all on their own, before dinner, be an active listener, drop what you're doing and give them your full attention.
  • Some days I just have Elaina go to her room, by herself, in the quiet. Oftentimes she falls asleep until dinner and other times she just reads quietly or relaxes. Her sister pestering her the moment she walks in the door is really hard for Elaina which is why her bedroom can be a safe zone to relax while everyone else stays downstairs.
  • I've got dinner to make and a baby to chase around the house, everyone is getting cranky, so I might put on a short 20-30 minute video or show (educational is best) so they can just unwind and let me get their food done. I'm not a big promoter of letting kids watch a lot of TV. I don't think a child should come home and watch TV until bedtime for a couple of hours. But every now and then letting them just veg out with an educational show isn't going to hurt anyone.
  • Reading time! Reading is a great way to relax and de-stress. And as a Kindergartner Elaina has 10-minutes of reading as her homework everyday. Oftentimes I just have the girls go in the playroom and lay on beanbags with some books. Or we'll all cuddle together to read the books Elaina brings from school.
  • Bath time. Bathing is so relaxing and it is fun! Sometimes we do this after our snack (let's face it; your child may come home stinky from sweating and playing and just needs one anyway!).
  • Tying into the bath time, which we sometimes do before dinner, is putting on pajamas. There is just something about being in your PJs that is relaxing.
3). Strict bedtime. I really let a lot of things slide this summer in regards to bedtime. But now our bedtime is strictly 7pm. As my children get older we'll push it back but right now your elementary-aged child needs an incredible amount of sleep. Plan their bedtime accordingly depending on when they need to get up for school. Even the child who wakes at the break of dawn may be hard to waken once they begin school because they are so fatigued.

All in all have a nice routine set in place when your child gets home.
Ours is: healthy energy snack, books (homework), playtime/downtime, dinner, playtime, bath, pajamas, bedtime.


Vixbil said...

Wow this sounds like my house on a school day. I love the new blog layout too. William did calm down going into the christmas term but I found the first term really difficult re his mood when he first started school, they are just soooo exhausted. You sound completely on top of it though, well done you

The Mommy said...

I love it! We are really big on routine around here and I get negative criticism for it sometimes. I really think it helps children of all ages know what to expect...and it helps me A LOT too!

Amber said...

Thanks... I needed this. I have no clue what to expect on Ally's first day tomorrow. :) I will use your tips!

Andrea said...

Aww! I never thought about how rough going to Kindergarten must be...especially the first few days. I will have to remember you posted about this in 4 years when Evan starts going!

Julie said...

I agree with Vix, great layout!

I can't tell you enough how true this is. Even in 2nd grade, Hannah would come home exhausted, moody, starving and wanting space. Beginning 3rd grade next week--I will continue to give her quiet time. Especially now that she shares a room with two sisters---she's going to need that time alone.
How's Elaina doing with school? Still loving it?