Dear Kerry: “Unwinding After School”
My first grader really needs some “down time” when he gets home from school or else he falls apart if we do any other activities. I’ve started letting him have half an hour to curl up and watch a show. It seems to be helping. Any reason that I shouldn’t be letting him do this?
I’m glad that you can recognize that your son does best when he has some down time after school! That’s great. What I would suggest is that you expand the ways that you encourage him to “unwind.” If you always let him watch TV, then it’ll likely become a pattern that could stick with him into adulthood. The downside of watching a show to unwind is that when we watch, we turn off our brains. We get to stop feeling and thinking. That’s why we like it! But that is so limiting.
I’d rather see your son have an “Unwind Box” with options he can choose from. Imagine if each day, he picked a different way to unwind after school. Here are some possibilities:
- Write “TV” on a tennis ball
- Music: put in an iPod or something for him to listen to and possibly sing along with, music.
- Art: put in various art supplies such as playdough, stuff for drawing or painting.
- Sports: how about a few balls that he can throw outside, throw in his room, a ball to shoot baskets, a photo of the trampoline to go jump?
- Cooking: For an older kid, you could put a measuring cup in which gives permission for him to bake or cook for pleasure.
- A stuffed animal to represent that you will snuggle with him that day.
- Building toys
- Figures for imaginary play
If he gets to (or has to) select from all these options for how he unwinds, you will be raising a kid who can feel relaxed and happy doing a wide variety of activities. He will be much less likely to be addicted to watching screens or playing video games as his way to tune out and shut out the world.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2017 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents