Countdown to Sunday Scaries (child edition)

If you feel sad on Sundays, you’re not alone – but you need to be careful you’re not passing on this dread to your children. To help them learn how to self-soothe, get prepped for Mondays, and look forward to the close of the weekend, you’ll need to reinvent Sundays at your house.

Here are a few things some of us at Nano have tried with our children. We found that the regular tears and tantrums (pretty much) ceased as a result.

Let us help – pick something from our list – then try it out. If it doesn’t work, try something else until you find something that works for you, and your family.

New Rituals:


  • Sunday baking: Sarah Michelle Gellar (yes, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” if that’s your era) wanted to bake with her kids. But she was worried about some of the ingredients in other cake and muffin mixes, so she developed her own organic non-GMO baking company. It’s called Foodstirs and the kits are full of good stuff. Most importantly, they’re simple enough for humans with the smallest of hands and tiniest of attention spans. 
  • Sunday food prep: Baking is fun (see above) but getting ahead of yourself with the week’s food preparation is great if you can involve your kids. To avoid a meltdown (yours, or theirs), make something that is relatively simple, in one pan, which then cooks in the oven for a while. Good Housekeeping has this winter hotpot which will make your house smell amazing while you’re doing one of the other activities below. Why not have a sing/dance-a-long while you’re in the kitchen together? 
  • Make your own cartoons: Teach your offspring to be creators of content, not just consumers of it. Try Toontastic for absorbing tutorials on animation. Share them with relatives (that’ll impress them).
  • Bundle up warm: Do a local walk loop. If you don’t have your own dog(s), you’re bound to bump into neighborhood canines who need a pat and a hello. If you find yourself popping your children in the car and transporting them everywhere on wheels, it’s a good idea to stroll the neighborhood each week. It will give you all a serotonin boost too. Plus your children might find it easier to bring up stuff they’d like to run past you while walking. 
  • Family conversations: Do you have teenagers? Rather than initiate a “tell me what’s going on” style approach – to which you’ll probably just get a blank face and a mumbled “nothing” in return – sit on the sofa and watch Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” show. She’s joined, most weeks, by her mother (“Gammy”) and her teen daughter (Willow) – as well as special invited guests. It’s a no holds barred style show – and some very tough subjects are thrashed out. But it’s all in the name of mental health, it’ll probably stimulate good conversations, and you might learn something, too.  
  • Mi Abuela: Do you live in a different country than the one you were born in? Did you promise yourself that you’d bring up your children as bilingual but, good intentions and all that? An hour on Sundays using the cool app Duolingo will brush up their Spanish in no time. Your mother will thank you. Or you could compete with your siblings by getting your little darlings proficient in Portuguese and then start saving up to take them to Brazil next summer.
  • Bubble baths and audio books: Teaching children self-soothing rituals is crucial. Pull a chair into the bathroom if your kids are small enough to not mind you hanging out with them while they’re submerged in bubbles. Have conversations about good stuff – or listen in companionable silence to something thrilling (Stephen Fry did a marvelous job narrating the entire “Harry Potter” oeuvre.) You don’t need to buy audiobooks, sign up for the digital download service at your library and let your kids choose this Sunday’s aural delights.
  • Family entertainment: If you have Scottish or Irish heritage, you might have (good/bad?) memories of clan gatherings where everyone was supposed to play an instrument, sing or entertain in some way. Although, back in the day, it might have been torture for you, your kids might enjoy creating their own fun today. Especially if you’re not putting them on display to relatives. As few families have an upright (or baby grand) piano to gather around, you could clear off the kitchen table, grab tablets, download piano apps for a concert performance or upgrade to a stadium style Sunday via Guitar Hero.
  • (Virtual) Cultural vacations: Did you know Google is scanning in the world’s top museums? Why not pick a different cultural place to visit each Sunday – starting with the British Museum? All from the comfort of your house (no plane tickets required) and you can pause, discuss the art, cross-reference artifacts with your own family history and generally feel a lot more relaxed than dragging tired tweens around IRL.
  • Take a breath: Meditation is a deeply useful life skill and it’s never too early to start. Some of our Nano staffers found good results with “Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street,” and it’s great for a nostalgia trip down memory lane for parents, too.
  • Box sets sessions: Don’t sit mindlessly with your children in front of the flat screen. Why not make a concerted effort to get them swept away by something great in the drama department? Wintry Sunday early evenings are good times to bring Shakespeare plays (that they might be studying at school) to life.
  • Family history: Why not find out more about where your family comes from? You could all take an Ancestry DNA test, then build out your family tree. It’s a good way to bring up tough issues too – especially if your family is bi-racial, multicultural, or on what’s now considered the “wrong side of history” of global conflicts. By putting names to actual ancestors you can help your children understand what their lives must have been like – and also give them perspective on how much better (we hope) life is today.


Reinventing Sundays

Remember that you’re modeling good behavior for the next generation.

Don’t make Sundays scary for your kids – or they’ll just carry on that feeling of dread into their grown-up lives. You have a chance to change things – you don’t have to pass on intergenerational issues.

Are you sharing custody with your ex and only get every other Sunday with your children? Then definitely don’t go overboard with the shopping (chances are they have enough stuff), or exhaust yourself with “activities” (they go to school all week – they might like a lazy afternoon with you at your house instead). Read this about how to keep a united front as parents with your children and avoid scarring them for the future. It can be done.

Don’t pay bills on Sundays, you’ll just make your children feel awful at the end of the weekend, especially if money is tight right now – because they’ll pick up on your financial fears. Save all house/personal admin until they’re in bed on Thursday evenings. Order a delicious take-out, light candles, clear the decks, settle up your accounts, check your diary for the following week, then get to bed early yourself.

Plan ahead: Make sure sports kits cleaning, school uniform mending, bake sale purchasing (you don’t seriously make that stuff yourself do you? Who has time?) and all the other week-prep is done on Saturday morning. School bags packed by the door. Uniforms (or suitable scholastic outfits, even if that includes unicorn t-shirts and amusing socks in your district) hung up on the outside of closets before you all go to sleep on Sunday – rested, and refreshed.

Make Sundays a time of self-care, enrichment, fun stuff, and good times. The week ahead will run much smoother for everyone if you do.