I first heard this “word” last November while in Disney World. I was so hungry that I stopped my group (which included three other adults and five children) and said I was eating at the restaurant we were nearest and they could go on without me to the place we planned on eating. I stomped off without them.
Later, (after I ate) one of the other adults said I had been “hangry,” a mixture of hungry and angry. He was right. I had allowed myself to go too long without eating and a grumpy, demanding person emerged. I frequently do that when I’m tired too. I would guess we all act out inappropriately from time to time including our kids. I wonder though, do we hold them to the same standards as we hold ourselves?
Think about this-has your child ever started crying/whining because they were hungry and you felt they were overreacting? Isn’t that the same as when I became angry and demanding? Children cannot always express themselves with words.
Have you ever let the kids stay up late in order to participate in a family gathering only to have a little monster instead of your child the next day? Again, that is how children express themselves.
It is our job to help them learn how to express those feelings appropriately. Here are some tips:
Give everyone a time-out or break. When we feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, etc and then try to teach others, it usually ends poorly. It is okay to have your child go to their room, a time-out chair, or other quiet place while you do the same. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this is how your child knows how to have his needs met.
Once you are in a better frame of mind, ask your child to take a few deep breaths. Then do it with them! (Of course, you might be doing it alone at first if he still hasn’t calmed down).
Next, ask your child to ask for what they need. (Notice I say need-when hungry, we need food). You might have to help them out-“You seem hungry. Would you like an apple or some milk.” Then ask them to say “Yes please.” Or “You seem really tired. Do you need to take is easy today?”
You can also help your child express his feelings by stating what you see. For example, “You seem mad that you feel hungry.”
Once the need is fulfilled, go back and talk to your child about the behavior you noticed and what he can do next time before it becomes that bad.
Also, make sure you are being preventative. I know that I rarely engage in late evening activities for my kids because it is just not fair to any of us the next day.
And it’s not too late for us to learn this about ourselves either. I was prepared the rest of our vacation to prevent myself from becoming so hungry!
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.