With the needs of three children to meet all at once, the time between my kids finishing their tea and falling asleep is often fraught in our house. Lets face it they didn't coin the term 'the witching hour' for no reason! We always suffer most at the start and end of term, and predictably this week has been a shocker. I've noticed certain patterns over the years, so thought it might be useful to share my top tips for dealing with sensitive children during the most dreaded time of most parents' day.
No Choice / No Surprises
I'm all for giving my kids plenty of choice, but once tea time rolls around I do the deciding. My eldest gets overwhelmed at the end of the day and if I bombard her with choice she can't cope. We discuss what we're having for dinner in the morning, and I make sure that I stick to the plan. A slight deviation from it can send her into a complete spin.
When you have challenging children on your hands, it's paramount that you devise a bedtime routine that works for your family, and stick to it like glue. I keep weekday evenings after school very low key, and dish up dinner between 4:30 and 5pm. The two little ones then have a bath, I had to stop letting eldest have one because it was hyping her up too much. She reads or does some writing which chills her out. We've also recently started doing a little bit of gentle yoga just before getting into bed, which does wonders for us all.
Put Them Down Early
My eldest and youngest are both poor sleepers, and it is a rarity that either will go to bed and sleep the entire night without waking up. According to the experts, children should be getting 10-12 hours solid shut eye every single night, and our only defence against the wake-ups and sleep deprivation is for them to go to bed between 6-7pm.
Numerous people (that have kids who go to bed and stay there until the morning) have said to me over the years that I should try putting my eldest to bed later. Believe me this method does not work for poor sleepers, they get over tired and either act hyper-actively or go into meltdown mode. Then it takes even longer to get them into bed because you have to wait for them to snap out of it. When she's asleep by 6:30pm she sleeps best, if for whatever reason she goes past 7pm, my Hubby and I brace ourselves, because we know what's coming!
This is so much easier said than done when the little-uns are running rings around us, but it's so important. As soon as I lose my temper the task of getting them into bed becomes ten times harder. Hubby and I went on a mission at the start of this year to eradicate our negative parenting behaviours, and it made such a difference in our house. It might sound obvious to some, but not shouting has a hugely positive impact on the children.
Especially at bedtime they need us to be super calm. Getting upset stimulates production of the fight or flight hormone cortisol, which can sometimes be the root cause of the wake ups. It is certainly a factor for us, and when our daughter has a meldown before bed she always wakes up in the night. I'm not perfect at all, and I have lost my cool over the years more times than I care to admit. Since being mindful and trying my hardest to remain calm though, I have definitely noticed improvements. Long may they continue!
Do you have any top tips for surviving the witching hour?