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Dysregulated Students: Top 5 Reasons Why Kids Get Dysregulated before a Break (and what to do)

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

The other day as I was walking into the lounge, I overheard a conversation between two of our paraprofessionals. They were chatting about the increase in the number of behavioral issues they had been seeing at lunch, recess, and even in the classroom. As I kept heating up my food, I couldn't help but think of a student I once had who would spend several days leading up to any break just completely out of sorts. That is when I realized what was going on, as we all looked forward to an upcoming break, some of our students were not nearly as excited as we were.

Dysregulated Before Breaks

For some students, heading out on a break is hard. As teachers, we are often looking forward to these breaks because we need the time to rest, catch up on work, maybe even reconnect with our family and friends.

But for some students, breaks from school means uncertainty and can cause fear and anxiety. These big emotions can then present as misbehavior, avoidance, defiance, heightened emotional responses (like easy to anger or cry). To understand why students act out, it is often helpful to know why students maybe so triggered by a break from school.

How Can Teachers Respond?

As teachers, we can help support our students in the days leading up to a break. How we respond can often help a student cope with their big feels and can help them regulate their emotions.

Listen and Support

As we notice students are out of sorts, often asking them how they are really feeling and can help them acknowledge and unpack their big emotions. While we might not be

able to fix the problem, but we can listen. Sometimes verbalizing can help students process their big feelings.

Be Aware of the Upcoming Break

As excited as we (and other students) may be about a break, be aware that other students may be having a hard time with an upcoming break. Class conversations about "what are you most looking forward to" or count down activities can sometimes remind and trigger students who might be struggling with an upcoming break.

Connect Families with Resources

If you know a student or family might be struggling, try to connect them with resources ahead of the break. If your school has a backpack food program, being able to take food home over break can help ease their anxiety about being hungry. Often times, school counselors are connected with community resources that can support families- work together to help support families in need.

Respond with Grace & Empathy

Finally, remember that our kids who need the most love during these hard times will often ask for it in the most unloving way. Understanding why students misbehave allows us to respond with empathy, offer grace, and really support their needs.


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