When August was in later elementary and middle school, the end of the school day would send me into a panic. I was about to pick up a child who was by then unmedicated, who had homework to do that he hated, who was tired and hungry. And there was a younger brother to take care of as well. So there was the same question every day: After School…What Happens Now?
We always tried to get the homework knocked out first. This had mixed results. And the negotiations would rival the purchase of a new car. Food was always involved because when the ADHD medication wears off (it has an appetite suppression side effect) he was ravenous.
But many days homework would lead to rages and running away and battles that were so out of line with the work that needed to be done. It was one of these rages that lead to his eventual RAD diagnosis. And this is something many of you can relate to. Once he started to “spin” as I would call his raging, it would last for hours. It was a long, agonizing process which may or may not have ended with finished homework.
Extra-curricular activities worked well most of the time. He loved sports because he had endless amounts of energy. The problem with that is, if there was a game or a practice that occurred right after school, there would still be homework to tackle when we got home. And the later it got and the more tired he got, the worse the chances were that any homework was going to get done.
As I mentioned, it was one of these after school failures that helped us finally discover August had reactive attachment disorder. We had spent an afternoon after school arguing over homework which devolved quickly. His anger moved into raging and violence. He threw things at me every time I got anywhere near him. I’d never seen anything like it.
The next day we took him to the doctor instead of school and there was a moment when we considered hospitalization. Instead we got an appointment with a psychiatrist and a prescription for Seroquel. For those who don’t know, this is a super-powerful anti-psychotic used mostly to treat bi-polar disorder. We were told to give it to him until he calmed down. I had a friend with bi-polar disorder. She said she took 1/4 of one. August needed four. The psychiatrist we got in to see a couple days later was the blessing that gave us the RAD diagnosis and finally set us on the correct parenting course.
So these are just some of the things I experienced in trying to manage the after school world. One year we added in tutoring after school. You’d have thought I was taking him to the dentist twice a week. That speaks for itself. What I learned from it is that my unmedicated, tired, hungry child is not in a good place to do ANYTHING. Least of all more schoolwork. But it’s not going to get any better later in the evening. So it’s a matter of pay now or pay later. But there are a few things I found that can help:
- DEFINITELY food
- Some kind of outdoor exercise for a period of time (even August knew he needed that!)
- If your child can do homework after dinner and some downtime would be a better choice, go for it!
- Have some flexibility on the homework environment. Can they do work outside? Then let them. Can they work lying on the floor? Sure!
- Be an advocate for your child. If the amount of homework is just too much for them, negotiate with their teacher on what fulfills the needs of learning the material without stressing out your child. Get their therapist involved if necessary.
Here is a great article about ideas for spending time after school. Some of these ideas would be great for bonding and engaging your child and might qualify for school credit depending on what your child is studying at the time. After school doesn’t have to be a crazy, stressful angry time where we are all just counting the hours until bedtime.
Find a routine that works for you and make sure your child(ren) agree to the plan. Their buy-in is crucial to the success!
Until next time,