April 13: Coping with Rainy Days
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
This week I have been talking with many people about the outsized impact that the weather seems to have on mood and behavior during this time of sheltering at home. The spring weather in New England has been as variable as usual, and many people are finding that rainy, cold days are more challenging in a number of ways: family members can tend to be more cranky, irritable, and short-tempered on rainy days and if inclement weather has kept your family indoors for the whole day, children may be extra rambunctious or particularly whiny or cross.
If you wake up to a rainy day and it makes you feel sad, frustrated, or irritated, find simple, clear language to talk about your mood. Modeling putting feelings into words and communicating with one another about our moods helps children and teenagers learn to identify their own feelings, increases self-awareness, and builds empathy and an understanding of the feelings of other people. Once you have communicated about feelings, provide a model of self-care by explaining to family members what strategies you’ll use to help you cope with the dreary weather. Part of the balance is to acknowledge the negative feelings and allow space for them, then shift gears and focus on actions we can take to help ourselves feel better. Another important part of explaining these feelings to children is to clarify that your child didn’t cause the negative emotions you might have on a rainy day. For example:
“Sometimes when I wake up on a rainy day I feel cranky. Let’s take a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon – I know that will make me feel better.”
“On these cold, gray days I feel sad. What are rainy days like for you? Let’s look at some pictures of sunny days on the beach to help ourselves feel better.”
“When it’s rainy sometimes I feel so much more tired than usual. Let’s have a dance party so we can get our energy up.”
Thinking about the challenges of wet weather and being home with children reminded me of rainy day boxes. Summers in high school and college I worked at a day camp, and during counselor orientation the staff for each age group would create a rainy day box with special activities and surprises to inject fun into what could otherwise be tricky days at camp. You might want to create your own rainy day box for this spring – either an actual, physical box or simply a list of ideas to help add some excitement to a dreary day. Depending on the age of your children, your rainy day box (or list) could include:
A fun, simple baking project, such as making pretzels.
Clues for an indoor treasure hunt.
Paper and scissors for making a paper airplane show.
Ideas for active games you can play indoors such as Simon Says or freeze dance.
Invitations to an indoors teddy bear/stuffed animal picnic (set up on a blanket on the floor, consider making homemade party hats or favors for each of the stuffy guests).
Instructions on how to fold paper fortune tellers.
One final thought about our moods and the weather: give some thought to whether it would help you to have a preview of the upcoming week or perhaps just the upcoming few days’ worth of weather, and check forecasts accordingly. For many parents, knowing ahead of time which days might have more challenging weather can help with decision making. For example, if Tuesday is sunny and the Wednesday forecast is for cold rain, you might spend more time outdoors on Tuesday afternoon. The former camp counselor and nature lover in me also has to make a plug for getting outside every day, even in the rain, if you are lucky enough to be able to do so: splash in puddles, walk around your yard and notice how buds and blossoms look in the rain, and consider turning a corner of the yard into a mud puddle area, complete with a pail and shovel or an old pot, pan, spoon, or ladle from your kitchen.
Some other resources that I hope will be helpful:
I have attached a terrific list of board game recommendations that your family may find useful during the quarantine. The list was developed by Lawrence Academy teacher Scott Smith, who recently published his own original board game.
Several families have shared ideas about planning a dress up family dinner as a way to differentiate the weekend. I’ve heard about lots of creative concepts such as having family members dress as super heroes, dress for the red carpet, or dress like a rainbow. Consider adding this fun routine to your family’s weekend plans.
Last week during my webinar a parent asked about appropriate sources of news for teenagers. Common Sense Education has a useful list of Best News Websites for Students which includes reviews and links for news websites designed for children in grades K-12.