Is your child irritable around lunch time?

In 2008, The parenting OC magazine asked us to submit a 350-word article for their readers for the “Ask the Expert” section.


My son seems to have a tough time shortly after lunch. He is 4 years old and past needing a nap, but should I consider going back to nap-time after lunch anyway?


You are right, tired children tend to show agitation and exasperation.

While we adults allow ourselves either a nap after lunch, or stimulants in the form of caffeine, we send our children away from the kitchen table expecting them to show contentment and good mood. Sometimes it doesn’t work like that.

Small children do not know how to settle on their own and pointing the finger to the couch demanding with a firm voice that the child be quiet just does not do the trick. It adds to the distress of a child who has no idea why he does not feel so great. The more agitation your child demonstrates, the more rest he needs.

I suggest the following set up for down time after lunch, applicable almost anywhere, in the classroom, the park, or of course even better, at home. It is a multisensory approach that takes pleasure to the brain. For all intents and purposes, this fifteen-minute session of auditory, olfactory and tactile enjoyment is to “re-charge” the brain, to prompt it to refill with the essential hormones:
Serotonin and dopamine.

  • Slow, relaxing orchestral music, ideally with headphones. He MUST like it. You can start with movie scores. They are easier to listen to.
  • Hold a citrus scented tissue to smell and enjoy (or any other simple natural fragrance that he/she REALLY LIKES).
  • Lay him down comfortably, on your lap or next to you, stroking his forehead, his face, his neck, or anything else he ENJOYS.

If you are not sure what to choose for your child that would qualify as relaxing orchestral music, sit with him at bed time and listen to short portions of music and ask him or her to raise a hand when he or she hears something he finds “pretty”. No need to talk, just listen.

Dopamine controls good mood, attention span, memory. pleasure and movement. Serotonin controls just about everything else from learning to coping with stress, digestion, monitoring and understanding the environment.

Hope this helps!

P.S. Do you have sweet stories to share with all of us participating in this newsletter?

Every situation is unique. For example, your own child might hate gentle touch. Does he? Does she? How did you adapt the protocols to him, to her? Would you like us to help with that?

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