Got young kids? Here’s how to turn the early evenings around.

Us parents of young kids are constantly told that the days are long, but the years are short. It’s a beautiful, poignant thought. But it’s not entirely accurate…

You see, the days aren’t really that long. It’s just the twilight hours of the day… those few hours when you’re at the end of yourself, but staring down a pack of hungry, dirty, tired kids, that the end looks nowhere in sight. It’s those few hours that are just excruciatingly, intolerably, insufferably loooooong.

Here’s how we’re trying to turn things around in our home and make the worst hours of the day into some of our funnest. I’ll be honest with you, we currently have a 50/50 hit rate. Which means 50% of the time, a sibling ends up hitting another sibling and all fun and happy feelings are cancelled for the evening. But I’ll take 50% happy hours over 0%, any day.

DOWN TOOLS

The biggest change for us has been agreeing to ‘down tools’ from 6-8pm every weekday evening. This means switching off all devices, screens and distractions during this time and consciously switching from ‘multi-task/work’ mode to focused family-time mode. Any work/emails/what’s apps that haven’t been finished can be picked up again later if necessary. It’s a slight change, but one that makes a big difference – freeing you to be really present to the people around you.

MOVE TOGETHER

Sedentariness (or plainly speaking – inactivity) in kids is at an all-time high, and only getting higher as they get older. Whether it’s cranking up the music and dancing together, or going for a walk together, or kicking a soccer ball in the garden, we try to do something fun and physical as a family. Most of the time, none of us feel like doing this and at least one of us will actively complain on the way towards it – but it always ends up being worth it – and somehow the energy spent results in multiplied energy and an upbeat attitude all round.

TALK & EAT TOGETHER

From the results of the recent Wonderful World Survey below, it seems most of us (9 out of 10) are actually managing to still sit down to eat together as a family which is great news!!

In our home, we’re now trying to get everyone to sit down at the table every night if we can. Then at some point in the meal, if conversation isn’t already flowing, we initiate one. There are two rules: One person speaks at a time. The others listen. I have to admit though: the percentage of time spent on any topic we bring up that devolves into someone mooning the table, talking about poo, or trying to claim another person has stolen their airtime, is uncomfortably high. BUT the times we have gotten it right, and everyone remains fully-clothed and in control of their emotions, makes us committed to sticking with it. It’s these times around the table that prepare our kids to healthily interact with others later. It’s as they learn how to not just tell a story, but listen to someone else’s story, that they’re slowly (painfully slowly I know) being shaped into people that will not just be interesting and engaging but (rarest of all) interested people too. Also, its been proven that real conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading!

SNUGGLE TOGETHER

Straight out of the bath, kids brush their teeth and then go to their rooms. Then, climbing onto a bed with one or a few of them, we read or tell them stories, hear anything they may want to tell us and snuggle together. My most precious conversations with my boys have happened during these un-rushed minutes of the day. And again, we don’t get this right every time, but when we do, it’s magic.

So, four simple twists in your daily routine to hopefully help try and turn the twilight hours from ‘madness’ to ‘happy’.

Written by Julie Williams: Lifestyle Editor