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Author Bio: DeAnn and Jared started Embrace Parent Coaching after struggling to create a non-punative parenting plan for their children. Having one adopted child and one biological child who experienced medical trauma at an early age led them to learning about the impact of stress on brain development in children. Today they work with families to embrace new parenting strategies to create connection from chaos within families with hidden challenges.

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Any parent knows that a child’s return from school is often a flurry of activity. Shoes kicked off, coat thrown down, backpack left wherever; it’s chaotic and can be overwhelming. Often that is exactly how our kids feel after returning from school: Chaotic and overwhelmed. And if you’re like us you try and repeat the same routine you had when you were a kid, which means immediately sitting down and doing homework before anything else. Given changes to most school schedules, though, the old after-school schedule we had isn’t productive for children, and actually creates a lot of stress for everyone. So how do we make this tie more peaceful and productive? Here’s three simple steps:

1. Don’t focus on homework first

If your spouse is a plumber, you probably don’t greet them with, “Hi, how was your day? Great, now I need you to go to the basement and run new pipe for the kitchen sink.” Yet often that is exactly what we do to our children. And while a plumber may do some home repair work, he/she likely gets a break after walking in the door. We should offer a short break to our children as well. We recommend giving minimum 30 minutes of chill out time before homework. The best activity may depend on your child. Our older son who is an introvert needs time alone playing to recharge his batteries. Our younger ADHD son needs some physical exercise. Think about what your children need when they get home and give them the time and space to do it.

2. Healthy, protein heavy snacks are a must

Think about your child’s schedule. When do they eat lunch? How long between lunch and the time he/she arrives home? When we thought about this, we realized it was almost 4 hours between the time our child ate lunch and arrived home. That’s a long time for a child to go without food. And if your child is distracted easily by friends, noise, or high-energy environments, chances are their lunch wasn’t finished. Kids need healthy snacks when they arrive home from school. This can include:

  • Nuts

  • Deli meat

  • Yogurt

  • Milk

  • Cheese stick

  • Fresh fruits (bananas, apples)

Foods high in sugars and dyes (fruit chews, soda, etc) will give a quick sugar rush then cause a kid to crash hard. Focus on healthy snacks to avoid the sugar crash.

3. Get some exercise

Schools across the country have been forced to cut recess time, and our children have suffered greatly for it. Kids need physical exercise not simply to “blow off some steam”, but because it literally increases brain activity. How do we, as parents, help them get the exercise they need? It depends on your situation. For some playing outside or at a nearby park is a great resource. You can sign them up for after-school activities that are physical (sports, martial arts, parkour, etc). Others may need to be more creative. Set up an exercise circuit in your home (sit ups, jumping jacks, push ups). Have contests to see if he/she can beat their record. Make it fun and, if you’re really daring, participate with them. You’ll be surprised how much you both enjoy it.

Exercise, healthy food, and a short break can do a lot for you and your child after school. Giving kids the space to relax, refuel, and engage their whole body will give them what they need to finish homework and for you to have a peaceful after school time. So what does your after school time look like now? Which of these can you incorporate today into the after-school plan in order to find the peace and production you want? Choose one thing and go for it!