The Witching Hour
The witching hour is near, and you can almost feel it. Although, if you are so lucky to not know what the “witching hour” is, you can probably guess. Odds are, it’s happening in your house every day.
Derived from folklore, the witching hour is when paranormal activity occurs, and “creatures” are thought to be most powerful. In modern day households, it’s the hour after you get home or right before bed, when those creatures, also known as your children, seem to be conducting black magic. The house is a mess, the dishes are overflowing in the sink, homework needs to be completed, the children are arguing, there’s a stack of bills on the counter that need to be paid, and someone needs to get dinner started. It’s chaos around every corner.
Decompress and Connect
Sorcery aside, if you approach this hour with self-regulation, dominance, and pre-planned compassion, you just might be able to bring your children back to the natural world. For local mom of two, Kayla Valenti, her household witching hour usually takes place between 7 and 8 p.m. with her six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
“It is chaotic,” she explains. “The kids start fighting and crying. It’s almost like they have gone mad.” Valenti combats her witching hour by turning it into a time of relaxation. She and her children do a variety of low-key activities, including reading, watching movies, and even sitting together and discussing their days.
“This helps to make the transition to bedtime easier,” she says. “If we’re sitting and relaxing, we usually make it a time where we can cuddle together and talk about our days or anything they want. Just spending more time with them, where they have my complete attention helps out a lot.”
Lynn Gresham, Licensed Professional Counselor, says it’s important to remain mindful of what each member of the family is carrying with them into that transitional time of day—whether it’s the hour after everyone gets home or the hour right before bed. If your witching hour happens when the working day is done, your children are likely to be hungry, exhausted, and craving attention, all the while knowing that there’s more work to do when they get home.
Taking simple proactive measures such as planning for the family to spend 10 minutes decompressing and connecting, without technology, could make a huge difference. Like Valenti, Gresham recommends giving complete attention for a few moments so children will have an easier time turning their attention to homework, helping, or independent play.
“Your children are experiencing a similar range of feelings, just as you are, except their cognitive abilities to identify and verbalize their expansive feelings about going home [or going to bed] is limited,” Gresham says. “Make connecting with your children a priority so that they don’t seek out attention in negative ways.”
While it’s important to plan for time to decompress without technology, it’s equally as important to utilize it, if you’re a parent short on time.
“Because most parents have busy schedules during the week, one stressor that is often brought up is dinner time,” Gresham says. “If you know this is a struggle in the evenings, plan your meals Sunday evening, use one of the apps to order groceries, and pick them up or have them delivered.”
Leslie Todd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Therapist, recommends combatting the witching hour first thing in the morning. “I ask a lot of my clients what they had for breakfast, and some of their nutritional habits aren’t great,” she says. “If you don’t eat until noon, it’s tough and can have negative impacts outwardly through your emotions.”
Practicing self-care—whether it’s through proper nutrition, exercise or relaxation techniques—is vital to combatting the witching hour with a calm and level-headed demeanor. If you aren’t sure what helps to give you that extra pep in your step, it’s important to perform an assessment of your own self-care to figure it out.
“In terms of self-regulation, we need to take care of ourselves in order to be there for our children,” Todd says. “There’s no cheating on that. As adults, we forget that we have already learned coping mechanisms. We all have our own witching hours, but we have developed coping mechanisms to combat it. Kids haven’t yet, so we have to become their coping mechanisms, depending on how old they are.”
The age of your child deeply depends on his or her ability to self-regulate. With very little ones, you, the parent, need to provide that outside discipline and make it a teachable moment so they can begin to fully understand self-regulation.
“When the child is having a fit, we have to remain calm and provide that outside self-regulation so we can help them learn to regulate themselves,” Todd says. “This might mean giving them a snack when they’re ‘hangry,’ insisting on a nap, or telling them to go to their room. We have to provide that for them and in turn, stay calm ourselves.”
Thankfully, with teenagers, self-regulation mechanisms have, or are beginning to, fully develop.
In turn, conversations can be held that might provide valuable feedback. “You can tell a teenager ‘Look, I don’t need this right now,’ but you can’t tell that to a four year old,” Todd says. “To that end, your teenager may be able to tell you they need time when they get home to relax in their room. They may be right. You can get some buy in from other household members, simply by having the discussion.”
Gresham says if it comes to your sanity or theirs, remind yourself that the witching hour is temporary. “The meme you see of someone’s phone with the alarm clock time set every few minutes could’ve been taken directly from my personal phone,” she says. “However, it’s important that we remind ourselves that while we’re tired and wanting some ‘peace of time’ as my son calls it, each day is not a means to an end. We signed up for this full life that is just that—full of life.” ■