Whether your child is in preschool, kindergarten, or the early elementary years, the timeframe between the end of the school day and bedtime can be challenging. Children are at their lowest energy level after dedicating a significant amount of effort to the focus required in school and whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working parent it is the time of day when our patience is generally at it’s lowest. There is no magic recipe to create the perfect after school environment for your child, but there are ways to manage the circumstances that will alleviate some, if not most, of the angst that comes with entertaining and surviving the after school madness.
Here are three tips to consider as you navigate the after school hours…
1. Share the plan. A significant part of making the transition from school to home successful has to do with the ability to anticipate what will come next.  Each day I begin priming the boys for what after school might look like, what the choices will entail or what obligations might exists (e.g. a doctor’s appointment), to help them anticipate what is ahead of them in the day.  Knowing the details alleviates some or all of the drama that can present itself.  When the boys present opposition to some or all of what is outlined we talk through why the day includes the following activities and obligations, while strategies are discussed for navigating the plan as a team.  Including the boys in the process (or at least coaching them to feel they are planning) helps them take ownership over our schedule and feel part of the undertaking..
2. Have flexible activities available.  Transitions can be challenging for the most flexible child, but combine low energy levels and the opportunity to let their guard down after a hard day and you have a recipe for meltdown central.  Knowing your child’s preferences and tendencies allows you to plan for this dip in the day by making some of their favorite choices available in a flexible manner.  In our house, a trip to the playground or choice of taking a hike goes a long way to ease the transition from school to home.  Whether it is a quick 30 minute trip or a longer outing, the stop along the way home eases the transition and provides opportunity for the boys to shift away from school mode.  In the winter months or on poor weather days we may stop at the library to select new books, visit a local museum, or simply play in the yard for a short while.  Something about having a separate physical space between school and home (even if it is ten minutes in the driveway) does a tremendous amount for everyone’s mood.
3. Read the tone and don’t try to force the impossible. There are days when all of the above fails miserably for the simple fact the boys are exhausted or something earlier in the day unfolded differently than expected.  In these instances I identify the essential elements (what absolutely cannot wait another day) and accept this is where we will end up.  This may be the day where our biggest accomplishment is preparing dinner together or the boys will take out a floor puzzle to complete while I cook dinner.  Any why not cook dinner or complete a floor puzzle with a birthday party hat on to spice things up a bit?!  When the meltdowns are inevitable and the day is a wash finding something unexpected to change the mundane, even the slightest amount, goes a long way.
When all else fails we find comfort in curling up with a few pictures books and taking time to simply share stories from the day.  The boys enjoy comparing details of their school day and often the most endearing of conversations will take place as they color a picture.  No matter what after school routine works best for your family find little ways to enjoy the craziness of it all and observe the unbelievable growth taking place with your children in these moments.
 
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This post was originally shared on STRONGTOTS and has been republished with permission from the author.

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