Got grouchy kids this week?


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What are the two most difficult days out of the entire year for the child of divorce?

Want to try and guess what they are?



Valentines Day?



Did you pick any of the above? These are all good guesses and for many children some of these days are difficult. But the two days that cause havoc with the child of divorce and also for children in any transitional times in their lives are ………. the day after we go on daylight saving time and the day after we go off daylight saving time.

Many of us have difficulty for a few days after the switch but after a week or so most of us have fallen into the routine with an hour change in time. But for the child of divorce the adjustment is harder.

Because many single parents are barely surviving they forget to explain the time change. Or the children were at the other parent’s home on the weekend of the time change and that parent doesn’t think to explain either. All of a sudden these kids are getting up at a different time, hungry at a different time and in general just feeling grouchy.

Children, like adults, have internal body clocks and when theses clocks get interrupted it can cause havoc in their systems. They may have to get up when it’s dark and return home when it’s dark. This havoc turns into fretful, worrisome and anxious behavior issues.

There are many children of divorce who worry, “If my parents loved each other and now they don’t and if they left each other, what if they stop loving me and leave me too?” Then when it gets dark an hour earlier, they are sure their parent has left them never to return.

When kids worry and they don’t have the language to express themselves, their behavior becomes their voice. I’ve watched kids literally pace the floor the day after we go off daylight savings time. Their internal body clocks tell them they are hungry and it is past time for their parent to pick them up. It’s dark outside and just a few days ago their mom or dad picked them up before it got dark.

Their switching hour with the other parent has changed. They worry and wonder if their parent has forgotten them. It is very important to explain that while the clock says one thing our internal body clocks are saying something different.

If you have a program at your church in the evenings such as DivorceCare for Kids or Awanas be prepared the week after we go off daylight savings time.

  • Pray and ask the Lord to provide you with understanding and patience. Expect there to be some difficult moments with the kids but know you’ll get through those moments.
  • Have empathy for their situation. Keep in mind they are just children and are trying to cope the best they can.
  • Provide extra nutritious snacks.
  • Put a large clock on the wall for the children to be able to watch.
  • Keep reassuring them their parent will return to pick them up and take them home.
  • For some children you may need to walk them to the area where their parent is in the building to reassure them they are going to be okay
  • Share examples in your own life of how the time change has affected you. For instance one time when I was the piano player for a church I forgot to set my clock ahead one spring. When I got to church, they were just ending the service. When I told the kids that story, they thought it was funny that an adult could goof up like that. We all had a good laugh and it lightened their mood.
  • Talk about and explain what is going on with their internal body clock. Remember children learn through repetition so you may have to tell them often about why it is dark outside.

In the article, How Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes we read, “Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.”

When children have caring adults who will take the time to explain what is happening in their bodies with the time change, it will make it easier for them to understand.

In one of my DC4K groups one fall I sat the kids down and said, “Whoa! Some of  you seem kind of grouchy. How many of you feel different tonight? Hmmm, know why? It’s called daylight savings time.” Several kids chimed in with how their mom told them to eat their dinner before coming but they weren’t hungry then. Some kids knew and understood. One little kindergarten boy was clueless so an older girl got the clock down off the wall; showed him the clock, took him to the window outside to show him it was dark and then moved the hands on the clock back and explained what was going on. A look of relief flooded this kid’s face.

What will you do to prepare for anxious and overwrought children this next week?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on October 30,2013.

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9 thoughts on “Got grouchy kids this week?

    • You are welcome Wanda. Glad it was helpful. I came to discover this little fact after years of wondering why kids of divorce were so out of sorts every spring and again in the fall. Wish I would have known years before. Could have made a lot of little lives a little easier during those times.

  1. Just turned my clocks back last night and NEVER thought of this !! I will be paying attention this week!! Our dog already woke us up an hour early….she may have some issues too! 🙂 is my blog for ADULT children of divorce and I will be paying attention to MYSELF this week to see if MY emotions toward my parents late life divorce is affected by the time change! Thanks for the interesting insight!

    • Thanks for your comment. I’s also like to know how the time change affects you as an ACOD, adult child of divorce. Let me know please.

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