Mother-crossing-the-road-with-toddler-and-school-age-child

We know that after-school restraint collapse is a real thing. After a long day of school, it can be hard for kids to hold it together. They may melt down or have an emotional outburst, and sometimes—especially with very young children who attend daycare or preschool—there's one particular emotion they're blasting at mom and dad: Anger.

Sometimes, the child who was happy (and happy to see us) when we fetched them from their classroom can seem downright mad at us by the time we've made it home.

For mamas who have been missing their little one all day, being pushed away can sting a bit, but according to Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, R.Psych., this especially frustrating and personal form of after-school restraint collapse is totally normal and actually a sign that your child really does love you a lot.

"I call it defensive detachment," Lapointe, the author of Discipline without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up, tells Motherly.


"It's a subconscious thing. They don't even know they're doing it but it's very real," says Dr. Lapointe.

Any parent who has been through it knows how real it feels. As Lapointe explains, it can be trying.

"They defensively detach from you by being angry at you, and shoving you away, and may call you names," she says, adding that while it's often loud, intense, and inconvenient, parents should try looking at these displays of defensive detachment as a gift. Our children don't have the words to tell us what they're thinking and feeling, but this behavior can help us figure out what they need.

According to Lapointe, parents might want to think about how they feel after temporarily losing sight of their child in a public space, like a grocery store. When a parent is reunited with their child after a separation they were not in control of, they often hug them, kiss them, hold them, but then, that relief can turn into frustration and anger.

When your child is having defensive detachment meltdowns after daycare or school, that's how they're feeling: Relieved to see you, but frustrated at having been separated and over their lack of control. Lapointe says asking a child to suppress those feelings is as pointless as trying to hold a beach ball underwater: "It's going to come back up."

Instead of suppressing a display of defensive detachment, Lapointe recommends ways parents can soften the intensity of the separation, and give kids room to be loud and intense when they need to be.

Fill up their emotional cup before the separation

Lapointe's advice to parents dealing with meltdowns in the afternoon or evening is to start your defense against defensive detachment meltdowns in the morning.

"Try and set your alarm, for maybe 15 minutes earlier every day, so that you have a bit of time to actually connect with your child and really fill up their connection cup before you send them out the door to school," she explains.

Spending this extra time together in the morning can help ease the child into the separation of the school day while feeling more strongly attached to their parent.

Let them know you are connected even when you are not together

Lapointe often recommends the children's book The Kissing Hand (about a young raccoon leaving his mother to start school in the forest) and The Invisible String (about a mother who tells her children they are connected by an invisible string) to parents whose children are having a hard time with separations.

"They're both stories about how, even when we're not together, parent and child, we're still together through our hearts, and that you can never break that connection," says Lapointe, who recommends parents incorporate some of the lessons from these popular books into their morning routines and rituals.

A child may feel more connected if they have their own "kissing hand" or "invisible string" at school with them.

Send a piece of you with them to school

An invisible string is great, but sometimes kids need something even more tangible to remind them of mom and dad, says Lapointe, who recommends simple notes in the lunch bag, or a small picture of the family that the child can carry with them.

"I had one little boy whose parents laminated a photo of them loving on him, and then they attached it to a lanyard spritzed with his Daddy's cologne and he wore it under his shirt," Lapointe recalls. "When he needed to he could just peek under his shirt at the picture, and that's how he held them close."

Lapointe and her son had their own similar ritual with heart-shaped keychains. "And I carried the little kid heart around with me, and my son carried the mama heart around with him to school and in his backpack," she explains.

Let them let it out

Sometimes, all the quality time in the morning and all the loving reminders from home can't totally prevent a child's day away from you from being hard. If you sense a defensive detachment meltdown is coming on after pick up, Lapointe says it's best to take control of it by inviting it.

"You step in front of the meltdown by saying things like, 'You're having a really hard go today, Bud. I get that. And if you've got some shouts in you, now's the time to let em' out.' And so you kind of just will it into existence, so much so that your child actually, on a subconscious level, believes that you're in control of the meltdown."

According to Lapointe, a child who is on the edge of losing control themselves is relieved when they realize someone else is in control. By taking a proactive approach and literally asking for the meltdown to happen, parents can speak to their children while their child can still understand them. If we wait until they're freaking out to take control, we can't, says Lapointe.

"You can't be in charge of a child, or be in control of a child, who is no longer in control of themselves," she explains, adding that once they've lost control and are operating strictly from the emotional part of their brain, "they're not able to think or problem-solve. If we're gonna say things to them like, 'remember to use your words,' we just sound like foreign aliens, that doesn't make any sense in that moment."

So before your child loses the ability to hear you, let them know that you hear them. You hear that they need to release their emotions in a loud, intense and inconvenient way, and you're okay with it. Pull the car over or clear a space in the living room and just let those loud, flailing emotions come out.

"There would be no shaming, no blaming, no consequences, no punishing of any kind," Lapointe explains.

Remember that your baby really does love you, mama

Taking a page out of Lapointe's parenting playbook can reduce the impact of defensive detachment meltdowns after school, but when your child lashes out at you, it still hurts.

If you're dealing with defensive detachment meltdowns right now, remember that even if your child isn't showing it, they do love you, mama. More than they can say.

A version of this story was originally published on August 26, 2019.

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    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

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    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

    $4

    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

    $22

    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

    $10.29

    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

    $4.47

    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

    $9.99

    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

    $.99

    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

    $16.99

    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

    $3.19

    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

    $16.95

    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

    $14.99

    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

    $12.99

    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

    $31.96

    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

    $3.49

    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

    $29.95

    Calculator

    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

    $130.99
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