4 Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour

stickers
Image via Katie Hurley

Some parents call it the “witching hour.”  Others (sort of) jokingly refer to it as “wine o’clock.”   I like to think of it as anything goes …

Kids take their cues from their parents. If you can remain calm and work your way through a stressful hour, they will follow your lead.

No matter what you call it, there is that certain time of the evening when kids are arguing, jumping from furniture, sobbing, or some combination of all of the above. And during those long winter days when the sun goes down earlier, this very special hour (or two) of the day can feel like ten hours.

Some kids are very much affected by the early darkness that occurs during the winter months, and this can make for stressful evenings.  Stay calm, parents. Your kids need you to help them through these moments (even if you are ready to make a run for it).

4 Tips for surviving the witching hour:

 

Image via Flickr/woodleywonderworks
Image via Flickr/ woodleywonderworks

Structure it:

Chances are the witching hour also happens to coincide with the “get the homework done, clean up the toys, and cook the dinner” hour.  Adding a schedule to that is probably the furthest thing from your mind, but when kids feel overstimulated, exhausted, and out of sorts, a little bit of predictability can go a long way.

With younger kids, you might want to have a little 10-minute dance party or set up a treasure hunt before you start cooking to get out any pent-up energy. When kids don’t know what to do with their energy, they will start climbing the walls (literally). With kids of all ages, consider breaking down the cooking into small tasks and give each child a job. Plan ahead to take the guesswork out of it when that special hour occurs.  

{ MORE: When It's Something More: Dealing with Toddler Fears at Nighttime }

 

Image via Flickr/Henry Scott
Image via Flickr/ Henry Scott

Be present:

The time when your children are melting down, running around, and squabbling over every little thing is not the time to make a phone call, check Facebook, or start decluttering your home. Sometimes, parents make these choices to check-out for a moment and cope with the frustration, but that leaves the kids crying out for attention.

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Be present. Put your phone in a drawer, take a few deep breaths, and be there with your kids during this difficult time of the day. When parents remain calm and talk their kids through these moments, kids are able to settle down and feel less overwhelmed. Eventually, they will internalize the process and learn to make better choices, but it certainly takes practice.

 

Image via Flickr/PaulSteinJC
Image via Flickr/ PaulSteinJC

Create a quiet time box:

Sometimes, kids just don’t know where to direct that pent-up energy and those overwhelming feelings. Play-Doh, coloring, and clay are all good strategies for slowing down and releasing emotions. Puzzles can help kids sit and focus on a single task, which helps them settle down.

Create a box of activities that you can use just for this time of day. Kids love having special boxes and will look forward to finding an activity each night. Include coloring books, markers, crayons, clay, Play-Doh, small sticker craft activities, puzzles, and other projects that are known to calm your kids.

 

Image via Flickr/BuddaBoy
Image via Flickr/ BuddaBoy

Reverse it:

There’s a reason a nightly bath is often part of the nighttime routine: It’s very calming. Consider flipping your routine during the winter months. Choose an extended bath during the witching hour, and replace it with quiet play before bed.

Sometimes a slight change in routine can help restore order and a calm household.  

{ MORE: Work Hard, Sleep Harder: How to Improve Your Sleep Health }

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4 Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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