Ever have one of those days when life just feels harder than usual? When tempers are running high, and children are melting down, and the household feels like it is stuck in a negative rut?
I have those days, too. Days when I lose my temper and yell at my kids, days when I feel exhausted from a poor night's sleep, and days when my kids seem to bicker non-stop.
Those are days when I just need to push the reboot button, to give us a chance to start over and move into a more positive mindset for the day. These are some cures that I have found to be effective at turning bad days around.
Cure #1: Drop the Plan and Just Be With the Kids
On bad days, sometimes part of the struggle for me is that things aren't going according to plan. I expected and planned for things to go a certain way, but instead nothing is working out the right way. But if I can drop the plan, some of the stress seems to just melt away.
When I drop the plan, I can just go along with the flow of the day. Maybe the kids and I can play a board game together, maybe we can take turns selecting music and have an impromptu dance party in the living room, maybe we can close all the curtains and build a fort out of blankets. It doesn't really matter what we do together, but the main idea is just to stop trying to force the day into order, and instead be willing to embrace whatever happens.
Sure, there are some days when I can't just drop the plan, but there are also plenty of times when dropping the plan is the best thing I can do.
Cure #2: Go for a Walk
Going outside together often shifts the mood for me and my kids. When they were little, I'd strap the baby or toddler to my back and push my eldest on her tricycle. Even just taking a short walk around the block was often enough to shift our mood in a positive direction.
Now that my kids are older, they can ride scooters while I walk, and it's okay if they get a little ahead of me so I have a chance to have some quiet moments. Or, we can grab our nature notebooks and take a more leisurely stroll, stopping often to notice the little signs of life around us and drawing/writing about what we observe.
Cure #3: Go to the Park (and Bring Your Own Book Along)
Going to the park for some totally unstructured time is another great cure for a bad day. The kids can play and run outdoors, and I can have a chance to just be outside, away from the pressures and stresses of the day. Sometimes I will go for a walk around the park or do some light stretching while my kids play. When I had very young kids, I'd push one of them in a baby swing and enjoy looking at the trees and sky around me.
If we have time to stay at the park for awhile, I make sure to bring along a few snacks and my own book to read. Being able to sit and read my own book in the middle of the day feels like a luxury, and is sure to help me quiet down any negative thoughts.
Cure #4: Read Aloud in the Back Yard
A quick and easy mood-shifter is to grab a book and head to the back yard. We can grab a stack of picture books, or bring along our current read-aloud chapter book. I don't require the kids to sit and listen while I read; they can explore the back yard while I read and that's fine, too. Often, just getting my kids outside changes their dynamic and paves the way for a better day.
When I'm done reading, the kids often want to stay outside and play. So this gives me the bonus of some kid-free time once I'm back indoors.
Cure #5: Have a Picnic or Tea Party in the Back Yard
An impromptu picnic or tea party in the back yard is a fun way to shift the mood. A simple picnic can include sandwiches or other easy lunches, enjoyed outside in the fresh air, on a picnic blanket or at a picnic table.
The tea party doesn't have to be anything fancy, just some tea with a few cookies, crackers, or fruit-and-cheese. We like to use Tazo Passion herbal tea, which is fantastic because it can be cold-brewed with cold water. The kids especially enjoy being able to mix up their tea with a little sweetener (usually maple syrup) and milk to taste. If I'm up for it, I can also read a few poems to the kids during the tea party, and that helps to set a calm mood.
Cure #6: Put on a Video For the Kids and Have Some Me-Time
Since we limit screen time, there is generally no use of our TV during the week. But on a bad day, the TV can be put to good use to give me a bit of peaceful time. Especially when my kids were younger, when it felt like they were needing something from me all.the.time, using a video as an electronic babysitter was a tool that could give me a much-needed break. Blue's Clues or Curious Buddies were favorites to use for this when my kids were really young, and then Octonauts or Magic School Bus once they were a bit older.
Once the kids were settled in to watch their video, I could take a few minutes for self-care with a relaxing hot bath, yoga, reading, a short lie-down on my bed, taking some deep breaths, or (on an especially hard day) a little crying-and-praying in private. This time would give me a chance to reset my own poor mood and help me be ready to re-engage with my kids afterwards.
Cure #7: Put on a Movie and Make Popcorn
Because my kids only watch a movie once-a-week, watching a movie in the middle of the week can feel like a special treat that is a great way to shift our mood. To make it even more fun, I can make popcorn with plenty of butter and salt, and we can all snuggle down to watch a movie together. I prefer to use movies that are relatively calm that I enjoy myself (NOT Lego movies!!), such as The Fox and the Child, Babe, Misty, or nature documentaries.
Cure #8: Go on a Spontaneous Field Trip
When time allows, a spontaneous field trip can be an effective way of changing hearts and moods. Some field trip ideas include:
visiting an art, history, or science museum
going to a pet shop to observe the many different types of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish on display
hiking or picnicking in a nearby natural area
visiting a local zoo or aquarium
driving to the airport or a construction site to watch the big machines in-action
Cure #9: Listen To an Audiobook Together While Being Creative
Another simple mood changer is to listen to an audiobook together whilst working on individual art projects. Librivox has an excellent selection of free classic audio books, including these favorites:
Some good resources for keeping hands busy while listening to audio books include:
Crayola washable watercolors (for young children)
Pelikan watercolors (for older children)
Cure #10: Heart-to-Heart Talk and Apologies
Taking the time to talk calmly together and apologize is another effective mood changer, and one that can be combined with any of the other ideas in this list. Apologizing can be one of the hardest things to do on a bad day, as it can be so hard to admit our faults and be willing to take responsibility for the ways we ourselves have contributed to the negative feeling in the home. Nonetheless, being willing to say "sorry", and to really mean it, can be one of the most important ways to deal with a bad day. It shows children that we know we are not faultless, and that we are willing to face our faults. And it is a positive step towards re-framing our own thoughts and minds.
More Ideas to Come
I'll write some more soon about long-term cures for bad days, but in the meantime, I hope these ideas provide a ray of hope on those dark and gloomy days. Sometimes, these cures might even turn a bad day into a day of sweet memories.
What are your cures for a bad day?
This post is part of Inspiration Monday!
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