The “Witching Hours”. Have you ever heard this term? In parenting, it refers to the hours between 4pm and bedtime when children have the most meltdowns.
On Parents.com, Carol Baicker-McKee, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of The Preschooler Problem Solver. “Blood sugar is at its lowest, and fatigue is high. Families are in transition, and kids are often at their neediest. It’s no small wonder that this time of day can feel like a lethal experience for parents.”
Children, especially 10 and under, have been mentally, physically and emotionally stimulated all day at school. At some point, they will come home and lose their “stuff”. This is called dysregulation, when they are unable to manage or control their emotions.
There are a many ways to combat these afternoon/evening meltdowns. Finding the ones that work best for your family may take trial and error. Some options are to help them regulate themselves, some will help change their focus to something else and others will help with difficult transitions.
It may help your child regulate emotionally if you try one of these ideas: when they are about to meltdown but haven’t yet)
-rocking in a rocking chair
-drawing letters on their back with your finger to see if they can guess the letter
-petting the family pet
-playing in something tactile such as sand, rice, beans, or blowing bubbles
“The mistake that many moms make is to come home and immediately feel they have to jump into household chores,” says Dr. Kendall-Tackett. Experts advise working parents to give their children (especially babies and toddlers) the undivided attention they crave after a day of separation, before seeing to dinner. “Prior to doing anything, even taking my shoes off, I give my kids my total attention so they don’t spend the next two hours fighting for it,” says Shannon Eis, a New York City mom of two.
“They just need ten minutes with me, and then they move on to more entertaining things.”- Parents.com
To help your child change their focus from what is upsetting them: (distraction)
-put out a healthy and crunchy snack like carrots and ranch
-go for a nature walk
-shake the wiggle out
-dance around the house
-read a book aloud
This is not the time to discipline your child or talk about your child’s behavior. Your child needs to reset and cannot focus on conversation until they have regulated their emotions. In addition, you need time to clear your head and plan the best pay to talk to your child about their behavior without punishment or shaming. Reconnect with your child and come back to the conversation later when everyone is calm.
To help your child manage difficult transitions: (home to school or to after-school activity):
-sing silly songs
-keep containers of fun, favorite snacks
-pack a “transition” bag of activities they only get to use when transitioning
-play I Spy game
When your child is in the middle of a full-on meltdown, there are only a few things you can do such as cuddle them, give them space, let them cuddle a stuffed animal or blanket. Every child (and adult) have different needs when they are this point. Help your child to figure out how they would like to manage this in the future by having a talk with them when they are calm. If the child is too little to talk then you will have to figure out what works by trial and error.
Self-care for Moms and Dads are a priority because no parent or grandparent can manage emotional meltdowns if they themselves are tired, hungry or stressed. You are the most important people in their lives, take care of yourself for you and for them.