Wouldn’t it be great if spring around these parts truly started on March 21st with the trees budding, the flowers sprouting, and the sunshine warming us up! But truth be told, we all know we have to keep ourselves focused towards that warm spring day for a bit longer! Some days it feels like a little touch of sunshine would make some of those challenging parts of the day with our children a bit easier. The reality is that all parents can use some helpful tips to survive their own “witching hour,” no matter what the season.
If you ask almost any parent, they will openly tell you that they have a “witching hour” each day with their children! That time of the day that they see the most resistance from their children and the time of the day that it takes a whole lot more effort on their part to get any sort of cooperation! Sometimes it is the start of the day, the hectic part of morning when everyone needs to get up, get ready, have breakfast, and get out the door…all in a flash! Some parents feel like they spend the mornings barking orders like a drill sergeant without any willing “recruits!” Other parents report the time right after school up through the dinner hour as their time of stress. After a busy day for everyone, the kids all seem like they crave your undivided attention while homework needs to be done, the house needs to be organized, and dinner needs to be made! It feels like you are running a three ring circus full of action and chaos, minus the fun! Whatever the time of day, know that you are in good company! Whether your household has a stay at home mom or dad, or working parents, let’s face it…there is that time when no one feels at their best!
So, how can your family not only survive, but possibly even enjoy the “witching hour?” The first answer is to start to think about increasing the structure during these times of the day. No matter what your parenting style, creating specific routines during these times will prove to be very beneficial for everyone. Research shows that helping children know what to expect through routines can help them feel safe and secure. Feeling safe and secure will lead to increased compliance and cooperation. In addition, routines promote responsibility which will lead to healthy independence. Therefore, start by managing the time with a schedule by breaking it into short segments (15 minutes at a time) with very clear expectations for the children and for yourself. Some parents work well with a visual schedule for the family. Having a schedule posted can help to remove your constant reminders from the equation. The key to success is to teach what you want to see! The children should clearly know what will be expected from each family member!
Next, be creative about how you can get the children involved in what needs to get done. In the mornings, give specific jobs or responsibilities to help the children stay focused on what they need to accomplish. In addition to their self care routine, have someone be in charge of putting out the placemats for breakfast or letting out the family dog. Also, consider a helper to make breakfast! After school, be creative in having the children be involved in dinner. Even little ones can help tear lettuce or rinse vegetables while older kids can do some simple chopping. Little aprons, kid friendly kitchen tools and convenient step stools will help them feel more invested. For children that are craving some parent time this is a great opportunity to give them what they need, while accomplishing your own goal!
Third, be prepared! For the mornings, have as much done as possible to make for a smooth transition out the door. For example, you could help lay out clothes, pack backpacks, make lunches, and sign any forms the night before. Remember to involve the children by giving them age appropriate “jobs” to help complete these tasks. For after school, plan ahead of time for dinner as much as possible. Perhaps determine your menu for the week on Sundays. Consider some quick fix meals or even leftovers on those nights your family has a heavy schedule! When you’re not “winging it” all the time, your own stress level will be reduced dramatically.
Lastly, try to have some fun. For the morning time, consider encouraging siblings to work as a team. When they both have completed their personal routines and any “jobs,” then they BOTH can have a few minutes of free time before they leave for the day. Teamwork can allow the children to encourage and motivate one another. You may also want to consider an “out the door” incentive. Again if the routines are all completed with success, have the children pick from the “out the door” box for the car ride or even the bus- a special CD, a fun pair of sunglasses, an etch a sketch, or even a pair of binoculars can be an added bonus! Be sure that these rewards remain motivating by only using them at this time of the day! After school, be sure to schedule in a block of time to play with your children. Many children need the opportunity to reconnect with you after a long day. Plan some fun activities ahead of time and ENJOY! Giving your undivided attention by investing even fifteen minutes of your time with your children at this busy time of the day will be invaluable to them. So go ahead, keep bundled up awhile longer and forge ahead by taking the time to be creative and do some planning to turn your “witching hour” into a “winning hour” for your whole family.