Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cranky time

When is the classic worst time of day, the time when we all find ourselves on the verge of melt down? From about 4pm until the kids' bedtime. We are tired after a busy day. Blood sugar is low as we scramble to prepare dinner. Kids want our attention when we have very little energy to give and no creativity. Homework still lies ahead for school agers.

Since this is an every day occurrence, we might as well accept the challenge and move into this time with reasonable expectations.

Kids need to eat more often than we do. They are often more energetic than we are, so they are burning those calories much more quickly. Having a snack before dinner is a good thing to restore energy and lower crankiness. If they aren't able to eat a full dinner, that's okay too. A pleasant evening is our goal, not a food fight.

Television is a distraction, as are computer and video games. If we can set limits with these, a few minutes of Media time can give us a chance to get the rest of the evening on track. A few minutes! Have these off during meals. Talk together. Check in about the day. And keep them off until everyone's homework is done. TV-time is not family time. We can play games together or go for a walk to the park. Throw the ball around outside now that it's light until about 9pm.

Bedtime routines help smooth the evening wind down process. Kids often like being with us and don't want to miss out. If we are rushing kids off to bed so we can relax, we may find ourselves pulled back over and over again with their requests for attention - water, "he's laughing at me!", trips to the bathroom. Instead, do all of these things as part of the routine and talk or read together.

As with so many things, our attitude influences how this challenging time will pass. We can let our grumpiness make for increased frustration for everyone. Or we can make sure we have reasonable expectations and give kids the attention they crave.

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