We all know what it’s like to let off steam after a stressful day. We walk through the door, a tight ball of emotions, ready to scream, cry, or collapse onto the floor.
Now imagine you’re a child – a pop quiz fourth period, last pick in gym class, and the longest bus ride home with the neighborhood bully. You’re nervous, embarrassed, angry – all on the same day.
How is a young brain supposed to cope with all those feelings?
One way is to completely lose it on everyone and everything once inside the safe confines of home.
As a parent, you’ve probably experienced this first-hand:
Your child comes home. “How was your day?” you ask. Your child bursts into tears, runs to their bedroom, and slams the door. And you’re left wondering, “Was it something I said?”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
But don’t worry – there are things you can do to help, and mood tracking is a great place to start.
Children encounter stress the same way adults do, but unlike adults, children’s brains are still developing. They are only partially equipped to deal with intense emotions.
In an article on kids and their emotions published in Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. explains that, like all humans, children’s brains have a logical left side and an emotional right side. When it comes to emotional stress and meltdowns, children need support with learning how to integrate both sides to manage problems. Parents can help with this by validating their child’s feelings, acknowledging that emotions are temporary, and supporting their child in telling their story once they are calm.
Implementing mood tracking into a consistent after-school routine can support this process.
Licensed counselor Christine Taylor, LCPC, describes mood tracking as the straightforward record-keeping of your moods. This can be done via journal, workbook, chart, or any other routine tracking system. Families can use whatever tracking frequency makes sense, but parents who want to curb after-school stress should start by tracking moods every day after school.
Mood tracking can help reduce after-school stress by providing a safe space for children to process their emotions, but there are other benefits as well.
Mood tracking helps families:
Here is how to incorporate mood tracking into your after-school routine:
There are lots of tools available to help you make the most of your mood tracking routine. Here are a few to get you started:
Mood tracking is a strategy that can help anyone manage their stress, however, some families appreciate the additional support of a therapist. For more information, visit https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/parents-caregivers.
Hayley Wilds, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor, writer, and mom with more than 15 years of experience working with kids and families.