Weather and Mood

We have had a lot of really hot weather this summer. But it is not just the high temperatures that affect our behavior. Other types of climate changes seem to as well.

In the world of child care we often said that we could tell when a storm was coming by the behavior of the children. In fair weather conditions we saw very few behavior issues. The kids played well together, were able to follow directions, ate well, and seemed eager to try new things.

But a day or two before a storm, when a low pressure system was making its way toward us, we saw behaviors changing. Parents and teachers noted that children were especially wild, fidgety, irritable, aggressive and moody .

There was more whining, more aggressive play, and kids less able to concentrate on tasks. We referred to this as the barometric pressure syndrome. Again, very unscientific, but usually right on the money, as a storm usually followed right behind.

What exactly is a low pressure system? Basically, it's an area where there is less air in that region than in the surrounding areas, which leads to a rush of surrounding air (typically leading to winds and storms) that moves in to fill the space. Wise Geek explains:

That capital “L” on weather maps stands for low-pressure system, and it usually means cloudy or stormy weather is at hand. A low-pressure system is an area of weather in which the barometric pressure is lower than the surrounding air.
So, does weather really change the way kids behave?

We had only anecdotal evidence until Daniel Lagacé-Séguin and Marc-Robert d'Entremont, researchers at Mount Saint Vincent University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, examined the link between weather and children's behavior.

The researchers asked parents and teachers of 33 children ages 3 to 5 to rate those children over one month for such indicators as anxiety, aggressiveness, and helping behavior, which they then compared with weather data. They found that children who "typically exhibit positive social adjustment" (which is to say, act nice more often than not) are more likely to be disagreeable when the humidity is high.

But, good news, they also found that children prone to higher levels of "negative affect" (which is to say, not-nice behavior) acted better than usual when temperatures were pleasant and skies sunny.

So, how do you handle this when it affects your own kids? Here are some tips:

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts so you're aware when low pressure systems are moving in. Times of extreme systems might not be the best days to plan a lot of outings or have high expectations.
  • Keep the environment especially calming. Relaxing CD's, warm baths, comfortable clothes and a calm environment will be especially helpful.
  • Avoid other triggers during these times. Since some children become more hyperactive when they've had artificial food colorings, for instance, you might want to keep your child's diet as natural as possible during these days. * Use a lot of Sensory Integration techniques. Some types of physical activities and input greatly help children "get their wiggles out," concentrate, behave better and feel calm.
  • Wait it out. Once you know there's a reason for the behavior, it's generally easier to make it through it. The storm will pass, in more ways than one.

In the meantime, this is a great time to be especially gentle with yourself and your kids. Relax your expectations all around, plan some relaxing activities and things will be easier for everybody.

MaryLou Beaver New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
MaryLou Beaver

 

The Early Childhood Mental Health Network of the Upper Valley website address is www.ecmhn.org
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