Skip to main content

End After-School Meltdowns

How to prevent end-of-the-day insanity from Parenting magazine.

By Shaun Dreisbach, Parenting

It can seem like Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The school bus pulls up and instead of that smiling, happy kid who left this morning, off comes a grumpy, whining, tantrum-prone look-alike. "Going back to school is completely draining for kids -- mentally, physically, and emotionally. By the time they get home, they almost can't help but fall apart," says Jed Baker, Ph.D., the Maplewood, NJ, author of No More Meltdowns

Below, some end-of-the-day-insanity prevention strategies: 

Set an after-school timeline

Then stick to the routine. If your kid knows exactly what to expect -- and when to expect it -- he's less apt to be surprised (and set off) when, say, you ask him to turn off the TV and come to dinner.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

Get some food into him -- stat

Your child is already exhausted; add low blood sugar to the mix and you've got a recipe for disaster. A small snack and a glass of milk can work wonders.

Defuse homework tantrums

Don't wait too long to do homework, says Baker. Give your child a bite to eat, a little playtime, and then get right to it. If his tired brain can't deal, calm him by saying something like "It's okay, you're not supposed to know this stuff -- that's why you're learning it." Then help him break down the assignment into more manageable parts.


Offer a privilege or treat -- a little extra video time, a promise of pancakes the next morning -- if your child tries hard to hold it together.

Tackle the tough stuff first

Instead of spending an hour trying to get your kid to brush his teeth and put on pj's, have him do it right after dinner -- before any fun pre-bed activities.

Do something really mellow right before bed

Try turning off the lights and making shadows on the wall with a flashlight. I listen to books on tape -- also in a dark room -- with my cranky kid. After one chapter he shuffles right upstairs to bed. Magic!


17 Ways to Ease Back-to-School

End-of-summer tricks guaranteed to make the first day at the bus stop less stressful.

homework ban

Florida School District to Ban Homework

Marion County, Fla. kids won't have to worry about their afternoons being bogged down by homework because their school district has decided to ban it.

Back-to-School Tips: 5 Talking Tactics to Break School-Year Silence

Getting kids to talk about their day can be quite the challenge for parents as well as after-school nannies and babysitters. Add in the the same mundane question over and over, and you've got the perfect recipe for one-word answers.

Who’s Doing the Homework?

Former teacher, Erica Fehrman, offers tips on how to find that middle ground between Helper and Doer.

Back-to-School Tips: Preparing Your After-School Sitter

For parents, back-to-school is a time to make sure the children are well prepared for the transition from summer fun to classroom structure. But many end up forgetting one crucial element of back-to-school planning…

middle schooler with backpack

Library Secrets for Back to School

Summer is almost over. In the libraries we are girding our loins for the start of the school year. No more happy families picking up audiobooks for road trips; it's time for the after-school junior high crowds (heaven help me) and . . . dun dun dunnnn . . . school assignments.

school room books teacher apple

Volunteering at School

The first year I helped was for the Kindergarten Halloween party. I made sugar cookies from scratch for the kids to decorate. I was also totally nervous.