You're not imagining it: Rainy days make kids go feral
As most of the country gets a drenching this week, parents all over Australia are paying the price.
When I was a kid, wet weather days at school were deliciously anarchistic.
Instead of roaming free on the oval or handball courts, we'd be marshalled into the school gymnasium, where under fluorescent lights a kind of Lord of the Flies scenario would quickly play out. Sure, we were supervised but there was an electric kind of chaos that ran through the student population.
Wet weather days were responsible for all three of my most memorable primary school experiences. One was when a girl in my class was dared to clamp her lips together with one of those industrial-strength bulldog clips. She only managed to get it on her bottom lip, at which point it cut through and necessitated a trip to the hospital for stitches.
The second was when the resident naughty kid threw a whole mandarin up at the ceiling fan, causing it to burst into a thousand sticky fragments and rain down over the entire Year two class. The third, while potentially not a direct result of the weather, was when a boy who had severe allergies suddenly sneezed out a fist-sized ball of snot that contained hair, crayons and God knows what else. Now THAT was a day to remember.
Whereas once the ability to give in to cabin fever and go a little crazy on rainy days was enticing, seeing it play out in my toddler is another thing entirely.
Ask any parent and they'll tell you that keeping kids entertained when you can't let them run off their energy at the park is a nightmare. Fights break out, tantrums are thrown and by the end of the day your brain feels as soggy and grey as the sky outside.
Anecdotally, we know it to be true that kids go a bit feral in the rain, but it turns out there are studies to back this up. Edwin G Dexter, whose 1898 study of children in Colorado schools looked at the instances of corporal punishment, found that in 600 cases, bad weather was to blame for the behaviour.
There is also a growing body of research that points to drops in barometric pressure (what happens just before a storm) being responsible for everything from blood sugar changes to joint pain and headaches. A study published in The Journal Of Early Child Development And Care found that kids who usually exhibit 'positive social adjustment' are more likely to act out and be disagreeable when humidity is high.
Basically, science supports what teachers, daycare workers and parents have known for years: rain is the enemy of harmonious child-wrangling.
When it comes to how to mitigate the grizzly wet weather behaviour, science is decidedly unhelpful. Calming music, as much natural light as possible and a relaxing of rigid scheduling have all been shown to be minimally useful in soothing cranky children, but perhaps the biggest takeaway should be the knowledge that feral behaviour, to a certain extent, is outside kids' control on crappy days.
Like so much of parenting, it's a case of reminding yourself that, much like a low pressure system, this too shall pass.
Oh, and keep them away from mandarins if you have a ceiling fan.
This article has been republished with permission from Kidspot.