The Witching Hour is a real phenomenon in the world of parenting. The exact definition in this context is somewhere along the lines of "that time of day when all children seemingly fall under a spell that causes mass meltdown." Accepting the realities of the circumstances (extremely tired child[ren], limited bandwidth to manage multiple children, and parental exhaustion) helps limit frustration on the part of the adult. It is best not to push back when your child screams, lashes out, or starts crying, but to take a deep breadth and respond in a calm voice.
Realizing this is sometimes easier said than done, I would like to share a few of our best strategies for surviving the late afternoon madness...
1. Novelty is a powerful learning tool and means for engaging even the most exhausted child at the end of the day. The idea is to present a new stimuli or task. This can be something totally new to your child (such as a new puzzle) or a challenge of sorts (such as can you make sure all the books are on the shelf while mom prepares dinner). We recently added a chalk wall in the kitchen and I purposefully chose to introduce late one afternoon as I prepared dinner. The boys were quickly engrossed in this new experience and what is typically a challenging part of the day was executed seamlessly.
2. Planning and preparation can make a world of difference in the late afternoon hours of the day. It isn't always easy to think ahead to mealtime, but having dinner prepared ahead (such as using a slow cooker) alleviates the stress of cooking and allows more attention on the kiddos at this difficult hour. If you are not a planner or have difficulty preparing a meal ahead of time, try involving the children in the cooking process. Keeping children active, engaged, and included will ultimately harness a connection with the meal and focus attention at a time when meltdowns are likely to come easily.
3. Some of our favorite late afternoon activities help transition to the evening routine and include a quieter pace. One such activity is to have the boys create placemats for the upcoming meal. Recycle a brown bag from the grocery store and set up your child(ren) with a set of crayons. Pick a theme for the meal or simply allow them to decorate by recreating a favorite scene from the day. This activity can extend into dinner time as a language development task as the placemats are a starting point for dinnertime discussion.
There are still plenty of days where things fall apart and it is extremely challenging to rally the boys while keeping my own cool. Accepting there will be good and bad days helps make the difficult times bearable. Inevitably everyone calms in time for evening stories, where the chaos of the day drifts away and cozy snuggles melt any lingering exhausting.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com