Parenting expert discusses the importance of re-framing suicide hour

Suicide hour is not called suicide hour for nothing.  It’s that time at the end of the day when both parents and their children are tired, hungry, thirsty and in need of loving attention.  To add insult to injury, they are all ill-equipped to deal with these needs because their energy is at an all time low. Parenting expert Nikki Bush discusses some important considerations:

Characteristics of suicide hour in children:

  • Children become demanding and needy
  • Children whinge, whine and complain more
  • Siblings fight with each other
  • Hysteria lies just below the surface for many children
  • Children shopping with parents may throw tantrums
  • Children confuse being tired, hungry and thirsty
  • Children are not fun to be with

Characteristics of suicide hour in parents:

  • Parents are irritable, snappy or moody
  • Parents aren’t listening when their children are speaking to them
  • Parents are in efficiency mode to just get the day done
  • Parents misread their children’s basic needs and land up disciplining them more
  • Parents are not fun to be with
  • Parents often expect children to come to the party instead of taking the initiative and creatively dealing with the situation
  • Parents often send their children into the arms of a screen of one form or another, then they don’t have to deal with their children’s needs and demands

Why do parents need to turn suicide hour around?

While it sometimes feels like your second job of the day has begun when you come home to your children after a busy time at the office, this is a critical time that can set the climate and emotional temperature for your family. And, as a parent, you must take the initiative and lead in this situation.  We, as parents, are responsible for building the emotional bridge to our children so that they can walk back over the bridge to us, and not the other way round.

Children are often needy because they don’t know where they fall on your list of priorities and they feel you are distracted when you are with them.  Parents have the power to dispel this uncertainty, not so much by what they say but through their actions.  Actions speak louder than words for children. If what you say and do is the same then trust develops.

What can parents do to transform suicide hour so that everyone copes better?

The trick is to transform the tension at this time of the day into a warm, friendly connection.  Be completely clear that you are going to meet your children’s needs (being tired, hungry, thirsty and in need of loving attention) as quickly as possible no matter how tired you are (I promise you it will save you time and emotional distress in the long run).  By doing this you will avoid the vicious cycle that can result from ignoring or misreading their needs:

  • endless disciplining
  • nagging
  • losing your temper

All of the above are a negative way to end the day leaving everyone with a sour taste in their mouths.

To transform the suicide hour tension parents must learn how to proactively shift gears – to get out of work mode and into emotionally reconnecting with their children while also getting them all through the end of the day routine.

gears 3

Practical suggestions to help you shift gears on your commute home before you see your children:

  • Reconnect with yourself.  By taking a few deep breathes, listening to something different than the sound of work and releasing the tension of your body with some shoulder, ankle and wrist rolls are a reminder to get back into your body.
  • Eat and drink. Make sure that you are not tired or thirsty when you reach your children so that you have the energy to attend to their hunger and thirst. If you are thirsty the first organ to dehydrate is your brain, making you ratty and irritable.
  • Consciously refocus your mind away from work to your children.

Practical ideas for reconnection on arrival:

  • Be excited to see them.The look on your face when you arrive is like a mirror of how you feel inside and children take their cue from you. This does not necessarily mean they will be excited to see you. Sometimes children (especially really young ones, can be angry at you when you first reappear after being absent for a full day from them – but more on that in another article)
  • Change out of your work clothes.
  • Get physical with them. Hug, wrestle, roll on the floor with each other, take a swim or a bath together.
  • Be invitational with the chores. Don’t shut them out and do all the chores yourself, invite them in to help instead of sending them off to a screen. Children are desperate for your attention at this time and they need you to fill their emotional cups. The funny thing is that a few quality minutes spent with you can fill them up sufficiently that they actually leave you alone to get on with what you need to do without further nagging for your attention.
  • Talk to your children and listen well. Children are soothed by the sound of their parent’s voices, especially if they haven’t seen you all day.  Chat while you are doing the cooking, bathing, eating and bedtime routine. Not only are you emotionally connecting by you are improving their word power too.  And when they talk, try not to rush them or speak for them.  Listen and value their input and ideas. If you shut them down too quickly they will stop sharing with you.
  • Play a game together. If you have the time, a quick 10 minute card game or word game can do wonders to reconnect you and set a positive, fun tone for the rest of the day.
  • Incorporate family rituals into the end of the day routines.Read Why Rituals are Important for Family Life for some creative ideas.

What do children really want at the end of the day?

They want to feel loved and noticed.  They want to feel a sense of belonging and togetherness.  They want three very important questions answered in a multitude of ways both verbally and non-verbally every day:

  1. Do you see me?
  2. Do you hear me?
  3. Am I important to you?

Don’t you also think that you non-verbally ask the same questions as an adult of those you love, every day?  If children get the positive answers they need to these non-verbal questions then they don’t have to play up and resort to negative attention-seeking behaviour. Doesn’t this make so much sense?

By parenting more consciously and understanding suicide hour better you can transform the tension into loving connection which will do wonders for your relationship with your children.

For more information to help you become a more effective and creative parent on the run click here for my Back-to-School Sanity Savers ebook.