Before you’re a parent, phrases like 'witching hour' and 'arsenic hour' make parenting seem kind of kooky. What a curiosity, you might think to yourself, as you’re settling back with a glass of wine at the bar with a friend. Or smashing out that late deadline at work, with no real thought of time.
Fast forward a few years, and the reality of arsenic hour as a parent with young kids is far less 'curiosity' than flat-out shocker.
Defined loosely by the hours of 3pm - 9pm (depending on the age of your kids), witching/arsenic hour is basically just a kooky word for a very pointy end of the day.
“The part of the day when your kids are the most tired and yet you demand the most of them,” says Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue.
To add insult to injury is the fact that this time of day is completely unavoidable - you must make it to bedtime! If for no other reason than that it means you get to sleep, too ...
Chris told Kinderling that while witching hour is a very real challenge for today’s parent, it’s also a relatively new phenomenon.
“Our parents don’t remember that because we were sent outside until dinner time. Now we are at home more, because we can’t just send children outside to play and we are dealing with it more,” says Chris.
That said, it’s also a very normal part of childhood development and how much your children suffer from it (and therefore you too), really depends on their age.
Regardless, there are some key ground rules to keep your evenings in check and the arsenic at lowest possible level for all ages.
1. Be compassionate and don’t rush
“Understand how tired a child can get at daycare and school," Chris explains. "Both things demand a lot of their energy and awareness, so don’t overload your child in the afternoon and evening. Keep everything very predictable and don’t rush them through each stage of the routine.”
2. Give yourself
“The number one thing your child needs at the need of the day is YOU. The problem with this is that you are trying to do lots of things to move them towards bedtime," says Chris. “So the first thing is to look at your role - slow your afternoon down and make sure you’re giving your kids attention amid the tasks you need to get done.”
3. Pre-prepare dinner
“Cook some meals on the weekend, or use your child’s nap time or a space in the morning to get the cooking done and prepped,” suggests Chris. “You don’t want to spend the whole afternoon hiding in the kitchen getting through dinner. Also, don’t over-complicate the meal - simple is best. Eggs on toast, spaghetti, a sandwich or bowl of soup are great options.”
4. Switch off your phone
“This relates to point #2 - your children want you first and foremost and that means you can’t be checking your mobile every five minutes. Make it a habit to switch it off until your kids are asleep,” Chris advises.
5. Take a walk
“For kids with lots of energy, a walk to the park or just around the block around 4pm to 4:40pm is a great way to get rid of that final burst of energy. Have a chat, make it fun and the rest of the evening routine should be easier,” says Chris.
6. Have some fun!
“Play together on the floor, or just put your kids in the bath and have some fun giggling and splashing around in the water together. That one-on-one time is really the most important part of the evening routine.”
Sounds simple, right? But of course we all know that with kids in charge, anything can happen!
If all else fails, just remind yourself that if things don't go as planned today - there's always tomorrow!
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