How to Manage Back to School Meltdowns - Brave Guide
3 tips for getting through back to school meltdowns

How to Manage Back to School Meltdowns

Those first few weeks of school can be brutal. Everyone is tired and getting used to the new routine which can lead to some pretty hard moments. The first weeks of school are often full of tired mornings, tantrums, arguments over getting ready, and complete meltdowns as the evenings wear on.

This year promises to be even more challenging given all of the uncertainty around whether or not the kids will be able to go back into the classroom.

There isn’t much you can do to overcome the uncertainty and all of the stress that it brings. However, you can prepare yourself to handle the meltdowns, tantrums, and other behavior issues that may arise once school starts.

3 Hacks to Handle Back to School Behavior Issues

The following ideas will help you navigate the first few weeks of school. Each activity or idea will help you calm and settle your child into their new routine so that they are able to manage their emotions and energy as they head into a new schedule.


I often find that my kids come home starving (and totally hangry) from school. I am guessing that this will still be the case even if they spend their days at home, online.

Having a snack ready to go can be a lifesaver in these moments for two important reasons. First, providing a snack deals with the immediate need for food. This is one less thing for your child to worry or stress about.

Second, it can be a great part of your new routine. The more you can do to really solidify the new routine in the early days of school, the quicker your kids will be able to relax into the schedule. When our children know what to expect and have a solid routine, it can really help keep them calm and have fewer meltdowns and other behavior issues.


Start practicing calm down strategies now, at times when your child is not upset. Here are three great calm down strategies that can really help in the middle of a melt-down.

Calm Down Strategy 1: Deep Breathing

There are so many great deep breathing strategies that are easy and fun for kids. Here is one that is super easy to teach and use!

This breathing technique is called Finger Breathing. Have your child breathe in while they count to five using their fingers, hold for a count of 3, then breathe back out slowly counting down on their fingers from 5 – 0. The act of slowing their breathing down calms their mind and body. The visual/physical element of using their fingers helps kids remember the technique.

I would also recommend hanging some deep breathing posters in your child’s bedroom, bathroom, and playroom so that they are frequently reminded to use deep breathing to keep calm.

Deep Breathing Poster

Calm Down Strategy 2: Pick a Mantra/Affirmation

A mantra or affirmation is a saying that can be said out loud or in your head, to focus your mind on something positive. For example:

  • I am able to calm my body
  • Breathe in, Breathe out
  • Smiles make me feel happy
  • Don’t worry, be happy
  • It’s not the end of the world

Picking a mantra for back to school meltdowns can be a pretty personal process. One tool that I use with my own kids is the Make Your Own Affirmation Kit. This is such a fun little craft kit that helps kids learn about affirmations as well as teaches them how to use them!

Affirmation Kit

Calm Down Strategy 3: Keep the focus on something fun

Knowing that you may be coming into a tough afternoon/evening with your child in those first weeks of school, plan something fun for the evenings that can be distracting. Talk it up before they go to or start school and have it ready to go when they get home.

It can be anything that your child enjoys such as a family game night, doing a puzzle together, make your own pizza night, Lego playtime with mom or dad, etc.

Hack 3: Create a calm down space

For many kids, the melt-downs can also have to do with being overstimulated as they get thrown into this new routine with a new classroom, friends, and expectations. This year will most likely be even more overstimulating given that school is going to look different than it ever has before.

A calm down space is somewhere that your child can go to anytime they feel like they need a little quiet downtime. This space shouldn’t be a punishment space, but rather focused on self-care and calming down.

Creating this space with your child can be a really positive way to present the idea and get their buy in to use the space as needed. Let your child know that they can use this space anytime they feel like they are getting upset or feeling like they need a break.

In my calm down space at home, we use a Calm Down Kit with lots of great coping skills tools. I also have a deck of calm down cards that I use both in the calm down space as well as a mobile version that I can bring in the car or to appointments for my kids to use.

You can download a mini set of free printable calm down cards as well as a checklist for making your own Calm Down Space in the free resource library here.

Back to School Meltdowns
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