Ending the After School Grumpies

If you have a school aged child, you know what we are talking about. You are eager to hear all about your child’s day as you pick them up from school or as they get off the bus. Your smiling face, excited gestures, and open arms are met with grunts, groans, snippy tones, and all around bad attitudes. What’s the deal? Haven’t they missed you? Didn’t they have a good day? Are they sick? Was someone mean to them?

Take a step back mama. No need to panic! It’s just a case of the after-school grumpies. Coming home from a busy day at school can make many kids cranky, snappy, and all-around exhausted especially if they are just beginning their school careers and not used to this change. Luckily, there are ways to combat the after school grumpies as long as you have the right ammo in your arsenal. 


What’s the Cause

There are several possible reasons for your child’s remarkable difference in temperament when they get home from school. As parents, this change in behavior can be trying on our patience especially if there are a host of after-school activities to organize. But perhaps pinpointing the cause of these can help you decide on the best course of action in fighting them. Below are a list of the most common causes of the after-school grumpies:

  • They’re hungry – Even though you may have fed your child a hearty breakfast and a wonderful Pinterest-worthy lunch, they may be feeling a bit hangry by the time they get home. School takes a lot of energy out of them, and without an afternoon snack they may be crashing. 
  • They need to decompress –  Imagine sitting through meetings for 6 hours (or more) every day, with small breaks in between. As an adult, you would feel overworked and overwhelmed. Kids feel these repercussions, too and they may need some space before jumping into the next activity. 
  • They want to play – Even if your child is in elementary school their playtime is significantly less during the school year. Your child may be itching to run around and be active but they aren’t sure how to channel that energy.
  • They need rest – This is especially true for those littles that are just starting their school career. If they have been on the go all day with no rest time or quiet period, they may need some time to chill. Be prepared for them to fight you on it, though. Their tiny bodies have been on the move all day and they may have trouble shutting down. 

What to Do

There are several ways to help combat the after-school grumpies. It may take some trial and error but the first thing to do is identify why your child’s attitude has taken a sharp shift downhill. Is it because they are hungry? Tired? Mentally overwhelmed? Simply a bad day? Here are some ways to help your child (and you!) cope with the after-school grumpies:

  • Give them space – Even though you are interested in your child’s day, they may need a little time to decompress. If this is the case, encourage them to go into a quiet area of the house for some quiet time alone. Need some ideas for quiet activities? Check out our Back to School Bash for some STEM games that keep brains stimulated. 

  • Offer food and drinks – Your kids will need a reboot, and food may be the cure. Take a snack in the car with you for pickup or have it ready when they get off the bus to beat the hangry attitude.
  • Make them rest – This is especially true for younger school kids. They may not have napped for years, but after a super long day at school they may need it – even if they fight it!

  • Get them outside – They may have had recess, but even that is limited in most schools. Allow your kids to play outside and work some of that bottled up energy out of their system. They will thank you for it in better attitudes!
  • Let them be kids – Let them play for a bit when they get home. Don’t dive right into homework and if possible, try not to schedule something right after school every single day so they have some time to just be kids and not miniature adults trying to achieve the next big thing. 
  • Set up a routine – Try to regulate your child’s routine as much as possible after school. For example, when you get home you could offer a snack, give 30 minutes of outdoor play, homework, and then 30 minutes of technology. Of course this depends on any after school activities that you may have to juggle, but giving them a routine allows them to regulate their minds as to what is coming next – especially for the littles. 

Questions for the Kids

Every parent has the same first question as soon as they see their babies come home from school: “How was your day?” Oftentimes we get no more than a “Fine” or “Good” before it’s radio silence. Below are some questions you can ask to get more of a response out of your little ones after a long day at school:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • Tell me one thing you did in – insert subject like math, science, art, etc. here. 
  • What was one kind thing you saw happen today?
  • What did you play at recess?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today? 
  • What was your least favorite part of your day?

The key with initiating conversation with your child after school is to be specific. Oftentimes they might not have the mental capacity to actively think about their day, so asking questions geared toward certain parts of the school day will help them to funnel through their memories and focus on a particular instance. This way you will get more engagement in the conversation and you will be able to learn about their day without too much grief.


School is officially underway and that means hurried schedules, busy days, and… grumpy kids. The change of pace from a relaxing, slow-moving summer can be a hard adjustment for most. But knowing how to battle the after-school grumpies will help everyone in the family have a better transition from school to home each day!

To read more ways to get your child engaged with the new school year, check out 7 Books to Begin the School Year here on Daily Mom!

Photo credits: Lauren Lomsdale, VDOT

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Lauren Lomsdale

Lauren is a full-time mom of three girls, who also happens to run her own in-home preschool. She loves to write, run, yoga-it-out, and keep fit. She’s kind of crunchy in her homeschooling, cloth diapering, and natural products sort of way, but she also loves Starbucks and trashy tv. For more about her internal judgments of herself and hilarious quips about motherhood, follow her on IG and Twitter @thescoopmama, fb.com/thescoopmama, as well as her website theSCOOPmama.

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