The Witching Hour is Very Real And I’ve Figured Out How to Overcome It
By Jayani Perera
Photo © Kian Khoon Tan/123RF
Oct 3, 2018
There was a time in my life when 5-7 p.m. indicated half-priced appetizers, cheerful drinks and general after-work merriment and it was called happy hour.
That was before.
Fast-forward to my life now, with two kids under the age of six in tow, where 5-7 p.m. still signifies a unique time in the day, but “happy” does not spring to mind as a way to describe it. In fact, the name often used to describe this two-hour span is quite the opposite: the witching hour. Or in our house: crazy time.
Regardless of what it’s called, this is a transition time that takes place after school and either close to or right after dinner, where my kids are simultaneously hungry, tired, processing the day and looking for some attention. And this also happens to be the little time there is available after work and school to spend some quality time together as a family before the kids are off to bed.
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But that 5-7 p.m. timeframe normally involves something like my three-year-old screaming about his sister having pizza day when he didn’t have pizza at montessori while my five-year-old circles me showing off her newly learned Kids Bop dance moves. And all the while I’m juggling a pen in one hand to sign school forms and dishes in the other, either filled with or freshly dirtied by food. So quality never really factors into the equation.
When I began noticing crazy time in our household, at first — and like so many parenting woes before — my husband and I contemplated this "oh-so-unique issue that no other parent had dealt with before." Then I shared my struggles with another parent — which really should always be my first step — and to my relief, not only did they experience crazy time with their own kids but they were already into the solutioning phase.
After talking to parents, not only did I learn that this is an extremely common experience, but there are many great ways of tackling the so-called witching hour. And here are some of them.
The “Calm” Song
Pick a song that resonates with your kids, whether it's “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or Bob Marley's “Three Little Birds” like some parents suggested to me. Start singing it as you notice your kids acting up.
One parent told me it calms his young child right down and is accompanied by hugs, while another parent said she starts singing the song and holding her toddlers' hands until they join in and eventually are singing and dancing along, changing their temperaments.
Whether it's led by you or one of the many child-friendly yoga apps available, take a yoga time out and wind down with some yoga poses and soft music.
The physical activity helps kids use up some energy while changing their pace. The GoNoodle website has become a personal favourite in our home because it has guided videos geared to winding kids down.
Grab a stack of books and keep them close — near whichever part of the house your family tends to gather when crazy time ensues. A few parents recommended this solution for their book worms and said it takes the kids out of their current tantrum-inducing circumstances, because they get lost in a story, which shifts their focus entirely and changes the pace of what's happening around them. In addition, the cuddling calms them and they love getting some focused attention.
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Sit with your child facing you as you hold their hands — or if they’re really worked up, you can let them lie on your lap — and breathe together. Once your child is focused on breathing and you can see them calming down, count down as they breathe — starting from ten, then from five — until you can see them physically relaxing.
Slowing down and breathing deep has been shown to calm people, and if you want to go a little further, one parent suggested you can do some meditation with your child. Once again, there are many apps and online guides to help with this, and one that we have since come to use in our house is Headspace’s Meditation for Kids.
Hug it out
Simple but effective, sometimes dropping everything and giving a great big bear hug is the best solution at a time when your kid starts spiraling. Besides the Oxytocin happy boost that a hug transmits, it helps kids press pause and bask in your love and attention while relaxing.