How To Tackle After-School Meltdowns

As parents, we’re used to navigating a busy lifestyle.  Regardless of how well we think we’re doing, we can all agree that life keeps us busy.  If we stop and think about it, the lives of our children aren’t entirely different from our own.  Let’s take a quick look at the facts:

Kids work a day job.  They do their own paper-pushing and they answer to supervisors (their teachers and other school faculty).  They endure performance evaluations (tests).

Kids struggle with having no control.  Somebody else makes their schedule and tells them what to do (unless you’re self-employed, you probably know how that feels).  What’s more, kids must ask permission to take care of their own basic needs, such as getting a drink of water and going to the bathroom.  

Kids wrestle with social anxiety.  “What do my peers and my supervisors think of me?” 

Kids wish they had more time for fun.  There’s so much to do in a day and not a lot of time left over for things that they’d rather be doing.  Between school, chores, and their parents’ schedules, some days there might not be much to look forward to.  Even kindergarteners have more expected of them than we did when we were kids–nap time isn’t a thing anymore, their curriculum is a year or two ahead of ours, and recess isn’t mandatory!  

All things considered, it’s no wonder that children (and their parents) suffer from after-school meltdowns.  Adolescents are still developing the coping mechanisms that adults (well, some of them) already have. Let’s also not forget anatomy: when a child is young, his hippocampus–which is responsible for emotion–is more developed than the prefrontal cortex–which controls logical thought processes and decision-making.  

What can parents do to help?  Here are some fantastic ideas from seasoned parents:


1. Help your child decompress.  When your child gets home from school, let your child know how happy you are to see her.  Set aside your to-do list and eat a snack together. Don’t make her do homework or chores right away–just let your child relax for fifteen minutes or so.


2. Ask thoughtful questions about your child’s day.  You won’t get much of a response from questions like, “How was your day?”  Instead, you need to pay attention to what’s going on in your child’s life.  “What did your classmates think of your show-and-tell object?” “What special class did you go to today?  What did you do there?” If you ask enough of the right questions, you will begin to uncover how your child is feeling and he will get into the groove of telling you more about his day (which may not happen all at once, but randomly as you go about the evening together).  


3. Be careful how you respond.  Don’t scold him for mistakes that his teacher has already corrected, lest he learn to keep secrets from you.  If his teacher asks you to address something personally, don’t forget to show empathy and communicate that you are not against him.  When it comes to performance, praise the effort he put into his work rather than the grade he received.


4. Make adjustments.  If your child is struggling in school, it might be time to have a conversation with his teacher in order to move forward.  You might also consider doing small acts of kindness to remind your child that he is loved, such as enclosing a note or his favorite treat in his lunchbox.  


5. Have a routine.  Nothing is worse than being blindsided by work when you thought it was time to relax!  If your child has homework and chores, try to keep your evenings as routine as possible so that your child knows what to expect.


6. Give your child something to look forward to.  I don’t know about your kids, but when mine know that their grandmother is coming over to watch them so that Daddy and I can have a date night, they are more cooperative than usual.  You can keep it simple: “If you get your work done, you can watch TV after dinner.” Playing the long game helps, too: “Not only do you have TV to look forward to this evening, but on Saturday we’re going on a family date to the zoo!”  Again, even adults are motivated by weekend rewards.


7. Consider your child’s health.  If they’re not getting enough sleep, they’re sick, or there have been big life changes in your family, your children might not have the capacity to carry out your normal routine.  In such cases, it’s best to simply focus on making your home a safe and comfortable place. Whether they need space or or they want cuddles, always remember to prioritize their physical and emotional health over work that needs to be done.  You can always write a note to his teacher explaining why homework wasn’t finished (assuming that the issue is short-term).

Remember, Parents–you are not alone when it comes to after-school meltdowns.  They are so, so common! Kindergarteners are especially susceptible to them, as they’re still getting used to a full day of school.  The fact that you’re even reading this article shows that you haven’t failed as a parent, because you care about the wellbeing of your child.  

Moms and Dads, what tips would you add to this list?  How do you personally tackle after-school meltdowns?

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

Let’s face it: when it comes to parenting, none of us will achieve a perfect score.  Even so, every good parent tries their best (and they should) to grow for the sake of their children.  I’d wager to guess that from time to time you mull over a few tweaks you’d like to make to your own parenting strategies.  Now that the New Year is upon us and we’re in the mindset of making resolutions for 2019, here is an invitation to include parenting ideas in your planning.  Here are ten realistic resolutions to consider.


1.   Be more present with your kids.  This is easier said than done.  Whether you stay at home with your kids or you commute to work, there’s always something on the to-do list.  As parents, we live in this tension of wanting to create happy memories for our children by spending quality time with them, but we are time-broke.  Again, it’s easy to say that housework can wait, but we feel the pressure when Monday morning comes and no one has clean underwear. Perfectionism will have us constantly re-calibrating our schedules to make it all fit somehow, but it never does.  This year, consider adopting some creative solutions to prioritizing quality time with your children: schedule one-on-one dates with each child, create an after-school space for your children to unwind and talk about their day over milk and cookies, or encourage your family to do chores together on a regular basis so that there is time in the evening to unwind over a movie or board game. (Note: training children to do chores is cumbersome at first, but it’s an investment that will pay off down the road.)


2.  Cultivate passion.  If we pay attention, we will discover that each of our kids possesses a knack for something.  If your child loves to draw, give him the tools to exercise his craft, such as his own desk. If she loves to dance, enroll her in a class.  Maybe they will lose interest down the road, but one of the greatest gifts you can give them is the freedom to explore. (Note: don’t let them jump ship when the work gets tougher.  It’s one thing to lose interest and another to give up! It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference so we need to pay attention.)


3.   Teach them life skills.  From cooking dinner to preparing taxes, there are a lot of skills our children will need to know someday that they won’t learn from school.  The earlier we begin teaching them, the better prepared they will be for adulthood. Consider setting aside some time every week to practice age-appropriate skills with them.  As they grow, they will feel empowered by these opportunities. Mopping a floor might be tedious for you, but to a child who has few skills it’s a means of feeling capable of achieving greater things.  



4.   Have more adventures.  Rather than feeling tied down by your kids, invite them along for the ride.  Invest in some quality ear protection and take them to a concert or a monster truck rally.  Plan a cross-country road trip with plenty of pit stops at playgrounds (ones with potties, preferably!)  Don’t keep your parenting years in parentheses. Your next year-end memory book might be the best one yet!



5.   Get active together.  When it’s nice out, go for family walks, play tennis and go camping.  In the wintertime, go sledding, teach them how to skate, or stay warm in the bowling alley.  There are so many ways to cultivate a love for exercise in children. With a little creativity and a lot of family time, staying fit can be fun! (Disclaimer: this is where I struggle the most right now, but I’ve seen other families do it successfully so I know it’s possible!)



6.   Have a reading goal.  Personally, I believe that any child who says she doesn’t enjoy reading simply hasn’t found the right book yet!  Set a goal with your children for how many books you will read together in 2019. They will have so much fun picking out books with you and charting your progress that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning in the process.


7.   Embrace the hard conversations.  Be prepared to talk about heavier subjects such as sex, death and faith.  Know where you stand in your opinions of these subjects. You might want to practice explaining yourself in front of the bathroom mirror, or maybe by writing in a journal or filming yourself on your phone.  Anticipate the kind of questions your children will ask and don’t be dismissive of them. Most importantly, never give your children the idea that it is wrong to ask questions. Many children have grown up angry, confused and apathetic because they were taught this.  





8.   Get Organized. Whether it’s budgeting for a family vacation, creating a meal plan for healthier dinners, or getting rid of old and broken toys that are taking up space, now is a great time to get organized.  If we’re honest, 2019 isn’t going to be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start it off on the right foot!



9.   Spend more time with your spouse.  Before you had kids, it was just you and your spouse.  It’s easy to get so swept up in responsibilities that the romance dies.  This year, schedule more dates together. Parenting often feels like a battleground and you want to have a unified front!  What’s more, the closer you two are, the more secure your kids will feel.



10.   Make time for you!  I’m not talking about vegging out on the couch and scrolling through Facebook.  I’m talking about making time for hobbies that truly fill you up. It’s hard to lead on empty, and sometimes catching a late-night Netflix show doesn’t cut it.  Not only does your own well-being demand it, but your kids are watching you and learning about life balance from what you do. Do everyone a favor and remember to live your life this year.


Remember, parents–you’re only human.  You’re going to mess up in 2019. My recommendation?  Choose one resolution and stick to it.  No one expects you to be the perfect parent.  If you think someone else has figured out everything there is to know about this parenting thing, you’re not seeing the whole story.  Just promise me one thing: when the easier seasons come, and you see another parent struggling, don’t forget where you came from.


From my family to yours, have a Happy New Year!  May it be filled with babies for days!

How To Survive Bringing Your Kids to The Grocery Store

Mention taking kids to the grocery store and you’ll see every parent’s eye twitch.

We didn’t used to hate grocery shopping.  There was a time when we waddled our little pregnant bellies around the store, fawning over the little jars of baby food and stocking up on diaper supplies.  Once in a while we’d see a toddler having a meltdown in the candy aisle while a parent pretended not to notice, and we whispered to our partners, “Our kids will never act like that.”

And this is where every seasoned parents laughs until she cries.

When it comes to having young kids, the grocery store visit is a ticking time bomb.  It doesn’t matter how well-behaved your children are–there will always be that one day they didn’t take their nap or you got held up at the pediatrician’s office and lunch time is fast approaching but you don’t have any food left in the house.  Life happens!

If you are tired of fighting with your kids at the grocery store and enduring menacing stares from single people or older folks who have been out of the trenches for a while, here are some helpful tips from parents who get it.


Technique #1: Avoid bringing your kids at all costs.

This will feel like a cop-out at first, but trust us veterans–you will NOT get a medal for taking your kids to the store!  If you’ve been struggling with your kids, first ask yourself if it’s worth it to bring them, if it’s doing your family any good.  Here are some alternatives:

  1. Have a family member or sitter watch your kids at home, and enjoy some well-deserved solo time.
  2. Bring only one child.  Being outnumbered is exhausting!  You’ll get precious one-on-one time this way, too.
  3. Order groceries online for pickup or delivery.  A lot of stores offer these services for free or with an affordable fee.  What a time to be alive!
  4. Find a grocery store that offers free onsite childcare (yes, they exist!)



Technique #2: Do everything in your power to set yourselves up for success.

If you cannot avoid bringing your kids with you (I see you, single parents!) don’t despair just yet–there’s actually a lot you can do to make things go smoothly.  Here are the dangers you want to avoid and how to do so:

  1. Hunger and Thirst.  Don’t head out too close to mealtimes (you will NOT hear the end of it!)  Bring snacks and small bottles of water (I’m talking 8 oz bottles–any more than that and you’ll have other problems) or juice to give the kids one less reason to complain.  Bring yourself something as well.  You’ve been on the go all day and probably haven’t eaten much.  I’m right, aren’t I?
  2. Missing nap time.  You don’t want to head out too close to nap or bedtime, either.  Sleepy kids are harder to deal with, especially once they get that second wind.  We call it “dark energy” at our house.
  3. Potty Accidents.  Before you even grab that shopping cart, take the kids to the family restroom (or go before you leave the house if you want to avoid the public restroom scenario altogether).  Otherwise you’re going to hear, “I need to go to the bathroom!” Fifty times.  Or worse, you’ll have to clean up an embarrassed child in the middle of the store (sorry about those diaper blowouts, new moms–not much I can do for you there).  These potty visits are annoying, so just get them out of the way before you have to worry about a store attendant swiping your cart or your frozen items thawing.
  4. Boredom.  This is the biggest reason why kids act out in the store.  They pull things off the shelves, pick fights with their siblings, run away from the cart like you’re just a pawn in this game called LIFE…So try to keep your visit as brief as possible!  Make yourself a shopping list ahead of time–not only will you avoid going over-budget, but you’ll keep the cart rolling.  Once that cart stops, it’s like stepping on a land mine!



Technique #3: Make grocery shopping a game.

If you have a huge grocery list, you’re gonna have to keep your kids distracted.  There’s no way around it.  Parents, I know you’re tired.  I’m tired, too.  I could walk around that whole store and not say a word to anybody.  I would take my time pondering what flavor ice cream to pick out for a late-night Netflix binge as though it were the most important decision I was going to make all week…but the kids aren’t going to let me because shopping is BORING.  They want something to do RIGHT NOW.

Fear not–here is what all the other parents are doing to stop the madness:

  1. Picture Scavenger Hunts.  Kids love to imitate their parents.  Consider bringing a scavenger hunt (with pictures) to keep them busy.  Stick with basic items like bananas and milk if your child is in preschool.  For older children, consider making it a little more challenging.  If they find everything on the list, perhaps let them pick out a treat (you might want to discuss ahead of time what kind of treats they are allowed to choose from).
  2. Make it a learning experience.  There are so many opportunities to educate your kids in the grocery store.  Practice pronouncing words with your toddler.  Help your preschooler identify the difference between healthy food and junk food.  Have your first grader read the shopping list to you.  If your children have their own money, you might consider bringing it along so that they can purchase something for themselves, such as a candy bar or small toy.  In our house, we pay the kids commissions for doing chores.  We put this money in mason jars labeled with their names, and when they’ve collected a decent amount we bring the jars into the store with us.  My oldest kids are 6 and 5, so they still have trouble remembering how much coins are worth, but we still practicing counting their money and they get to ring themselves out at self-checkout.  It’s an empowering exercise that I would encourage other parents to give a try.
  3. Put your kids to work.  Most kids are fascinated by produce scales and will greatly enjoy helping you weigh your vegetables.  Ask kids to grab items off the shelves for you.  Have them load up the belt at the register (but mind the eggs!)  They will enjoy having something to do.  Kids love having the power to make choices as well.  Ask for their advice (and take it!) as you shop: “Do you think we should buy chocolate or vanilla ice cream this week?  Should we get apples or bananas this time?”
  4. Let them have the tablet or Smartphone.  If we’re honest, a little screen time isn’t going to kill them.  If it gets you in and out of the store faster, then it’s worth it.



A Few More Tips to Consider

  1. If you have a toddler, try to avoid registers that have candy within reach (some stores offer snack-free aisles).
  2. Invite a friend along for the ride.  You can divide and conquer your list (and the kids, if they aren’t getting along).  Offer to buy her a coffee as thanks.
  3. Establish rules (ex. stay within arm’s length of the cart) and enforce them. It isn’t fun to discipline kids in public but consistency is imperative!  Otherwise they’ll come to understand that the grocery store is one place where they can take advantage of you.
  4. Treat yo’self!  Parenting is hard work and sometimes we just need a little something to look forward to at the end of the day.  I’m not saying throw out your diet or your budget, but you have my permission (for what it’s worth) to get a little something just for you.

While I can’t guarantee that little Johnny won’t destroy a toilet paper tower when you turn your back, I still believe these tips will nevertheless make grocery adventures much easier for you.  If it happens, I’m not judging your parenting skills.  The bottom line here is that kids will be kids.  Embrace it!  And to the parents of the special needs child, to the parents of the foster kids, to the parents struggling to balance work and home life, to the parents who weren’t parented well and are still trying to figure things out, and to the parents who have bad days like anyone else…

I see you.