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Dear Cathi: Anxiety Meltdowns

Dear Cathi, 

We don’t know what to do with our 9 year old son. He is a really good kid with no school problems, but when he gets home, he falls apart. The second he walks through the door, the littlest thing sets him off. Settling down to do homework is a nightmare.  He fights my husband and I every step of the way, and yet, he is a straight A student and his teachers have consistently called him a “well-liked, wonderful leader in the classroom”. During parent/teacher conferences, I seriously wonder whether the teachers are describing someone else’s child!  This situation is making my husband and me crazy.  We just want some peace at home.  Do you have any ideas for us? 


Sheri M.

Dear Sheri,

You are experiencing firsthand a very common but extremely challenging problem: the angel at school, devil at home phenomenon. So frequently kids save their most difficult behaviors for their families where they feel free from the structure and expectations of school.

School can be a very stressful place; one where kids feel they have to hold it all together, constantly regulating their attention, performance, and behavior. By the end of a school day, some children are like walking pressure cookers, barely making it home before they can finally take off the lid and let some steam off.

The upside of this phenomenon, of course, is that you, unlike his teachers and classmates, have the opportunity to connect with your child in many ways on various levels, both emotionally and physically. This means you have the good fortune of seeing your son at his best…. but also at his worst.

So, as a parent, how do you respect your child’s need for his home to be a relief from stress without allowing his behavior to wreak havoc on the rest of the household? The good news is that you can create a peaceful environment at home while offering your son the structure and boundaries he needs:

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