After school crankinessMy 5-yr old is in Prep and really enjoying it.  According to her teacher, she is a model student.  She never steps out of line and does well academically.  When she gets home in the afternoon however, things are so different.  She is often hyper, irritable, demanding and does not listen well.  During the two school holiday breaks that we've had so far this year, she has been delightful, sweet and helpful.  I try to have quiet afternoons of unstructured play at home in the afternoons and she usually gets 11 hours of sleep per night.  I wonder if the pace of interactions and activity at school is just too much.  How can I get her to better cope with her school days?  I need this for my own sanity and am even starting to think about home schooling!  

Your daughter simply sounds tired. It is not unusual for parents to describe to me exactly the same behaviour for the prep and Grade 1 children. What is happening is that she is trying her hardest all day at school, following the rules, remembering the instructions, playing well with other children and trying her very best. When she then gets home, she is really, really tired and she drops all her control and out comes all the cranky, irritable behaviour. Sometimes it even happens as you leave the classroom and head down the foothpath, they cannot cope anymore and they refuse to follow instructions and tears or defiance soon follows. She is tired, it’s been a big day.

Prep schooling for our children is 5 days a week and 6 hours a day this is about a 30 hour week for our little children. This is only a relatively recent change, when my son was at prep (preschool) his week was 2 days one week and 3 days the second week, roughly 15 hours a week. On the second week, the one with 3 days he was always really tired. Today for our children do double the school hours every week. This also is why on the school holidays you see the very best of her personality as it is just not so draining.

How to help her? I would aim for 12 hours sleep at night rather than 11 hours and you can do this by putting her in bed 10mins earlier each night and slowly adjust over a week. I would be very careful of any afterschool activities at all except a bit of exercise like going for a walk, bike ride or to the park to play. Just informal relaxing, activities rather than structured classes. It is also worth considering (I did this myself with another of my children) to have some Wednesdays off from school especially as the term continues ie. every second Wednesday, I’ve no doubt that some prep teachers will not be keen on this advice, however it is a lot for little children and they are much better to have a rest when needed for a day and then be refreshed and able to cope and learn for the next two days of the week. Give this a try before you change arrangements all together.

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