Let me tell you a secret all teachers know.
School is like a roller coaster - for kids and teachers.
School days can be wild, scary, frenetic, joyous, devastating. And that’s all in one single day. Or even in one single lesson.
So, it’s no surprise that our kids need to go through a period of decompression after school to help them make the transition from school life to family life.
(And they need to tidy their school shit away when they get home too.)
A calming after school routine can be just the thing for frazzled kids and mamas.
But just exactly how do you set up an after school routine without it becoming a chore and one more G.D. thing to cross off your to-do list?
Put your feet up, pour the tea, and take a deep calming breath, mama. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1 | Put Away School Stuff
Children seem to need an incredible amount of stuff for school these days - I’m sorry, are you going to school? Or off trekking around Morocco for 6 weeks?
So when they arrive home, you need a plan to help them contain their after school explosion of stuff.
This starts by setting up an appropriate organizing space for them near the door.
Here are some ideas that might work for you:
Hooks they can reach for their coats,
Pegs or baskets for their school backpacks,
Somewhere to dump any school papers for you to action, file or toss later (*sigh*)
Somewhere to store their shoes easily
Somewhere to dump their dirty sports kit
Don’t forget to add some really clear labels and explain the storage system to your children.
Talk together about your expectations - this is where they put their things and they can’t move on to the next part of the after school routine until this step is finished. Be clear about what ‘tidy’ looks like for you.
If a checklist works for your child, great.
Visual checklists are especially good for younger children - maybe take some quick photos of how you’d like their things tidied away to help them remember: shoes on rack, coats on peg, backpack in basket. You get the idea.
If you find that your child is struggling with the organizing system you set up - change your system. Not all organizing systems will work first time. The best ones evolve to suit family life.
2 | Nourish the Body
Eating at school can be surprisingly stressful.
There’s so much going on, so many people to talk to, so much to talk about. And as a teacher, I notice that some children feel tremendous anxiety about eating in such a public place.
So, an after school snack is essential.
And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. But the very act of taking a moment to sit down together and eat something nourishing is calming. A perfect excuse for your child to sit still and take a deep breath.
You can encourage independence by setting up a snack station in the fridge or pantry where they can help themselves.
3 | Nourish the Soul
Mornings are often stressful - lots of ‘hurry up’ and rushing around hunting for keys, shoes and water bottles.
So, the after school period is a good opportunity to reconnect with your child.
As a working mom, I feel tremendous guilt about leaving my son all day. But I do try to fill his emotional tank 3 times a day: when he wakes up, after school, and before bed.
So while they unpack their school things and eat their snack, it’s a good time to ask them questions about their day.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty convinced that my 3-year old was trained by Cold War-era spies in the art of resisting interrogation. He doesn’t give away anything - even under the most robust of questioning.
Me: How was school?’
Me: Did you do something fun today?
Him: Can’t remember.
Me: Who did you eat lunch with?
Him: Just some kids. Do frogs eat ice-cream?
Wow! (He has some pretty nice distraction techniques too)
If you can relate, why not try out these so-adorable-you’ll-want-to-eat-them After School Question Cards. Just the thing to melt the ice and start an actual conversation with your kiddos.
Why not share about your day too?
I don’t mean the nitty-gritty ‘that bitch Linda from IT has definitely got it coming’ or the ‘I’d rather eat a live jellyfish than go spend another 8 hours in that place’.
But why not share how your day made you feel and how you’re going to react to that in a positive way.
Let your kids see you deal with life in a grown-up way - save squirting cream directly from the can into your mouth while crying for later when they’re in bed. OK?
4 | Dinner and Homework
I’m going to put my teacher head on here and say, if you don’t have a homework habit established, now’s the time to do so.
If you have younger children, why not set up a homework space for them to work in while you prepare dinner. If you’re short on space (like we are) a portable homework caddy would be ideal.
Although I’m cooking dinner while my younger child works, I’m there so he can ask me questions and talk about what he’s doing.
Once he finishes his homework, he helps me with some simple dinner prep. Not so much a chore as a time for life lessons.
I like to put on relaxing classical music while my child does his homework - it really helps him relax. But you be the judge of what works for your child.
After dinner, we all help tidy up. Again, not so much ‘chores’ but all pitching into help. A sign that ‘yes you do have a part to play’.
5 | What Works for Your Child
This is a routine that works for my child.
But it’s not one that has to work for your child.
Before you try to implement any new routine - think about what your child needs after school.
Does your child need to be sit and quiet?
Or do they need to run around the back garden to burn off some energy and frustration?
Do they need to be scooped up in cuddles?
Or given some quiet time in their rooms?
Do they need to be with you after not seeing you all day.?
Or left alone after being with people all day?
All the steps we’ve talked about are important in making the transition from school life to home life on a daily basis - but, please, adapt them to what works for your family.
Making Time to Breathe
School days run on clocks, schedules, and hurrying children from one activity to the next.
And an after school routine is perfect for calming children after school - but please don’t be too rigid or put too much pressure on yourself.
Take some time to slow down, relax, reconnect after a busy day.
That goes for your too, mama!
Remember to pin for later.