How to Deal With Relapses After School With a Neurodivergent Child

By the time your child gets home from school, there’s a good chance they’ll be ready for an after-school crisis. These nervous breakdowns, also known as post-school constraint collapse , are often due to the child making great efforts to behave during the school day, only to lose control the moment they reach the place where they feel they are. in safety. These breakdowns are especially likely in neurodivergent children with disorders that affect their social and/or cognitive abilities, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia , or dyscalculia .

“Children expend a huge amount of energy on daily life in a neurotypical world with neurodivergent brains,” said Andrew Kahn , a psychologist at the nonprofit organization Understood . This may include spending the day in a mind-boggling sensory environment; the need to exert extra energy by sitting still, focusing on a teacher, or deciphering social cues; or additional reading and/or math difficulties. “Navigating these wiring differences is a bit like riding a bike in the wrong gear all day long. It’s exhausting,” Kahn said.

Offer compassion

If your child regularly has meltdowns when they get home from school, it’s important to be compassionate about what they’re going through and find a way to help them regulate their emotions on their own. As Kahn points out, relapses differ from tantrums in that relapses are caused by emotion, to the point where all logic flies out the window. “Crisis is a non-negotiable moment,” Kahn said. “They don’t respond to reinforcements and consequences.”

To help their children, parents need to create a safe space and some soothing rituals, as well as show some compassion for what they may be going through. “If we can understand what is really hard for them, then we can be compassionate,” said Elaine Taylor-Klaus , author ofThe Essential Guide to Parenting Difficult Kids with ADHD, Anxiety and More.

Find a way to keep cool

This includes finding ways to deal with these outbursts without losing your cool. “What happens to parents is that their emotions escalate as their children’s emotions escalate, so that they all become less logical at the moment, and then it just turns into a nightmare,” Kahn said. That’s why it’s important to anticipate that there will be occasional breakdowns and determine strategies to keep your cool. “You have to keep your fuel tank full to handle this,” Taylor-Klaus said.

If your child is not yet depressed but is disappointed with their day, Taylor-Klaus recommends giving them extra space to speak up without judging their difficulties. “You have to give them space,” she said. “It’s about meeting them where they are and acknowledging that their experience is real.”

Working on transitions

For many children who have difficulty in school, the transition from school to home can be especially difficult. “Parents should remember that the transition from one environment to another is sometimes very difficult for children, especially for neurodivergent children, and the best way to make these transitions more effective is to talk about them, especially when everyone is calm, and solve the problem. “decide beforehand,” Kahn said.

If your child is prone to difficulties at school, it is helpful to plan for temper tantrums or days when he is upset that something has gone wrong and has difficulty understanding what the teacher expects of him. “Plan for angry outbursts, plan for awkward moments by developing strategies for your child to help them feel better and stay calm,” Kahn said.

Set a homework routine, but adjust it as needed

If homework is a problem due to a learning disorder, Kahn recommends setting up a routine for your child to work on learning concepts for a set amount of time each day, but also adjust material as needed to keep it at the same level. manageable level for them. “Parents should not be in a position where they are trying to reeducate their child, as this will only provoke them and make things explosive,” Kahn said.

Instead, it can help to dedicate this time to reinforcing previous concepts they have learned or working on alternative exercises that are at a manageable level. “It never hurts for kids to learn some of these really basic skills,” Kahn said.

This sets up a routine and an expectation that they will work on math or read for a set amount of time after school while maintaining a manageable level. “If the child knows that the expectations are always the same, but the tasks can be carried over, then the chances that they will eventually break or melt away are much less likely,” Kahn said.

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