It’s 5 p.m. — that time of day we all look forward to. Our work is done, the outside world falls away and we reunite with loved ones over a hot meal at the dinner table. It’s the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting—good food, good conversation, good cheer.
But, ask anyone living in today’s boisterous, bustling society and they will tell you that such a portrait of family life is near fiction.
While some might refer to it as pure chaos, perhaps a better, softer term for this time of day is the “transition hour.” It is that hazy, crazy time when weary parents and their kids drag home from work and school and set about becoming a family again.
Toddlers shed tears of release. Teens express temper with little instigation. And, parents, already worn down by the demands of work, struggle to muster the energy to begin their “second shift.”
Read on for some very practical solutions to this “family after five” dilemma:
Unwind . Listen to soothing music on the way home and take deep breaths—anything that will help you find peace and calm before the real work begins.
Set the tone. If the squabbles start as soon as you walk through the door, call for a cooling off period where kids and grown-ups can go to their own rooms to read, relax and unwind.
Get comfy. Sweats, shorts, flannel pants and slippers have a way of making anyone feel at home. It makes a clear and distinct separation from the outside world.
Eat well. Set out a healthy, sliced and diced, ready-to-eat fruit and veggie platter. And, offer ice-cold water for the right kind of energy at the end of the day.
Set limits. Keep friends and neighbors at bay. The distraction may just add to the confusion and can detract from family time, mealtime or homework.
Chat Before you jump into chores and dinner preparations, rehash the day, talk about any problems that have come up or just laugh, tickle and tease.
Be prepared. Put together some quick and easy crockpot meals in the morning before you zip off to work. Why slave over a hot stove, peeling and chopping and boiling, with a ravenous crowd tugging at your sleeves? Those few extra minutes each morning will spare you the rush at night.
Go cheap. Use paper plates and napkins to cut down on clean up. The time can be better spent reconnecting with your family and will eliminate the arguments over who must clean the dishes.
Turn off the TV. A collection of Brahm’s lullabies played softly as the children work on homework or a lively jazz beat can provide a happy, festive feel to the night.
Get outside. A little fresh air before dinner might be just what you need to shake off the day. Plan a family activity—a brisk walk around the block or a game of catch in the backyard.
Expect tears or temper. Validate frustrations and offer a comforting shoulder to lean on. Remember that just as you have faced difficulties in your work day—demanding supervisors, moody colleagues—so, too, have your children, even little ones, endured their own kind of stress. Don’t be alarmed or angry if they “blow off steam.”
There’s no doubt—today’s family portrait has evolved. And, while family life may not always be picture perfect, we can remain intact with a healthy mix of patience and realistic expectations.
What are your ideas for easing the transition from work and school to home? Tell us below.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.