Starting kindergarten or first grade can be really overwhelming for children, even if they had been in group care before - which can lead to intense tantrums and emotional outbursts right when you pick them up from school.
Here are strategies to prevent tantrums after school and to make this big transition a little easier on your kids.
- Playdates: Making an effort to connect with your little one's classmates outside of school will help build friendships... which will result in more excitement to see each other at school each day. Figure out who they gravitate to and try to reach out to their parents to set up playdates.
- Try not to ask them too many questions when you pick them up from school. Give them a big hug, tell them you are happy to see them and have them be silent if he needs to - and just offer them a nutritious snack and a drink (most kids forget to drink their water... which results in grumpy little ones). Kids can get very overstimulated after spending so many hours with a large group of loud children. They may open up to you later in the day at bath time or only at bedtime if you cuddle with them in the dark.
- 1:1 time. Try to build moments of 1:1 time with your little ones, when they choose an activity for a set amount of time. You can set up your timer, so they know what to expect. This seems overly simplistic but, trust us... it works like a charm.
- Family meetings: Once a week, introduce the concept of a family meeting. Each member of the family will bring a topic of discussion, and a solution will be made by everybody brainstorming. For example, this is the right time to bring up a frustrating situation and brainstorm ways in which that can be solved in the future. For example, let's say your child has been having a hard time leaving the park when you say it is time to go home - have him/her think of ideas to make that transition easier (jump to the gate, making it into a race, etc.)
- Bedtime reading: We love using this special time to read books that talk about the challenges and issues your little one is going through, to help understand what is happening and learn strategies to overcome big emotions. Our own Tantrum Fix kit comes with a great book that addresses tantrums specifically. For other topics, here are a couple of books we recommend, they are all available on Amazon - and they should also be available at your local library:
- Jilly's Terrible Temper Tantrums: And How She Outgrew Them, by Martha Heineman Pieper.
- Listening to My Body: A guide to helping kids understand the connection between their sensations (what the heck are those?) and feelings so that they can get better at figuring out what they need, by Gabi Garcia.
- Cool Down and Work Through Anger (Learning to Get Along®), by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed.
- Words Are Not for Hurting (Ages 4-7) (Best Behavior Series) by Elizabeth Verdick
- Work with your teacher. Let them know what's happening at home and see if a calming activity can be offered to your child at times if he/she feels too overwhelmed during the day.