An After School Schedule That Helps Kids
All children generally have a change of mood and affect when the school bell rings! That bus ride home adds to the situation, either positively, or negatively. If a child is fortunate, they are looking forward to going home to a pleasant, low stress place that is ready to receive them. But most average children are going home to caregivers that have had a hard and stressful day themselves.
For children with special needs, it is important for adult care givers to take steps to make the transition from school to home as stress free as possible. This becomes and investment in making the after school time more tolerable for everyone, and perhaps even making the entire evening a bit calmer. Below are some guidelines that might help achieve a better after school time:
Try to fully wrap up any activity, chore, or duty that you were doing just before the children arrive home from school. When children arrive home from school, they are looking for your attention. If that attention is divided too many ways, they will get frustrated, and engage in behaviors you don’t like to get your attention. “Multitasking” has been proven to reduce efficiency and productivity in the long run!
Try to block or set aside any interruptions for about half an hour after the children arrive home. This shows respect for the children’s needs, and avoids the urge to take care of more than one thing at time. This small investment in your focused attention will make after school time less hectic.
More than two children rushing in? Take a number! Children need to understand that you are only one person, and can only “serve” one a time. You can even make up some laminated numbers, hang them on a hook at the door, and have each child ‘take a number’ as they go through the door. Let the rule be known (and enforced) that unless your number has been called, sit quietly and be patient!
If you can, do a little preparation for the homecoming. If there are attractive nuisances around, like electronic games or toys that have been left out in the community area, remove them. Get some snacks ready to offer. Be ready to collect muddy shoes and wet jackets on rainy days.
Slow down the after school process, and add order to the usual chaos. Everyone is busy these days: there are schedules to keep, chores to get done, people to transport. When possible, schedule that thirty (or more) minutes after school as a “decompression” time for everyone. While it may seem to put a crimp in the schedule, the investment in slowing everything down pays off in less stressed, crabby, irritable children (and adults!)
If you haven’t already, set up a separate homework site for each child. Nothing is worse than trying to do “group homework” for an adult. (Read: chaos, arguments, overwhelming.) If there are separate rooms for children to go to and do homework, they can focus better, and you can then move from room to room giving “turns” to your support and help. If you do this routinely, and circulate between the rooms, the children will learn that they do not have to run about the house looking for you to help, or be yelling for you to help them.
Check book bags and take homes. Don’t wait until tomorrow morning, look now. Have a plan for book bags. Either they all get dropped at the door or table for you to examine, or they go to each child’s homework station. You don’t have the time or patience to hunt down hidden book bags.
Limit questions until business is completed. First things first. Get the necessary things out of the way before interactions about dinner, what’s going on later, the schedule, or who needs to be where when. This means you also limit YOUR questions to the children about things other than business as well. Don’t invite conversations about anything other than the work at hand.
Keep all of your directives simple, to the point, and about the here-and-now. Again, first things first: children have been hearing multiple directives all day long at school, and might be kind of tired and overloaded of directives. Keep yours simple, one step at a time, and only having to do with the goals at hand. The younger the child, the simpler and more one-step directives should be. Keep your voice tone even and firm, but kind. Remember to use directives and not requests or commands.
Turn off the TV, stereo, I-pod, etc. In many homes, the TV or stereo is a constant background to everyday life. Turn it off. It only adds to the stress level, is a distraction (even though your think everyone is used to it), and inhibits clear, accurate communication between you and the children. It’s hard to pay attention to Dad’s direction to “take off those muddy shoes” when the commercial for a highly desired toy robot has just come on the TV!
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Welcome to the professional website of W. E. Krill, Jr. M.S.P.C. Bill is an experienced counselor with children, teens, families, adults, and couples. He specializes in treating children and adults who have PTSD as a result of interpersonal trauma.