Avoid Holiday Meltdowns

This holiday season I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with many parents and lend advice. The following is an article that is featured in this month’s edition of NewbyMom.com.

The holidays are a hectic time of year. Parents scurry around town buying gifts, prepping the house for guests and are in a constant state of hurry. Once the kids are on Christmas break, everyday routines fly out the window. There isn’t baseball practice or ballet class, no appointments to keep. At first, it seems like heaven, both the parents and the kids wear pajamas until lunchtime and there are no rules. It’s pure joy until boredom sets in and the trouble begins. So how do you avoid holiday meltdowns that can make your household not so merry?

Here are some helpful hints to keep your children from turning your holidays “Grinch-y”:

Children need routine. The structure of a routine is soothing to your child’s brain, keeping stress at bay. Also, children need to feel in control and safe. When children feel safe, they are more likely to be cooperative and respectful. Take the time to make a routine for the holidays, even if each day looks different.

Talk to your children in pictures, especially those eight years old and younger. Children have immature inner speech until about age eight, which means that children think in pictures without any sound, similar to a silent movie. Children younger than eight need to know what the day will look like, especially during a time when there seems to be no structure. Take pictures of what the new routine will look like and either post it in your home or make it into a “Holiday Book.” Have fun with it and involve your children, it will be a memorable keepsake as well.

Talk to your children like you would talk to your co-workers. Politely and assertive, of course. Children need to be told what to do. Also, young children retain information in their brains for roughly 20 seconds. So when talking to them, remain calm and speak with an assertive voice while focusing on what you want. Spend your time reminding and prompting wisely. When you give information, observe your tone of voice. Is it passive, “It’s time to leave, okay?” Is it aggressive, “Get in the car right now!” Is it assertive, “We’re leaving, get in the car.”

The assertive voice is the voice of knowing and children feel safe when they are with an adult that is composed and calm.

Children need sleep. Don’t forgo sleep for the joy. Children with sleep deprivation are emotional and exhibit defiant behavior and moodiness. Put a large chunk of time for sleep in your routine. This will also give you time to relax and decompress.

Start new family traditions. Children need to feel connected and the holidays are a perfect time to institute some rituals or traditions into your family. Rituals create connections and are the glue that holds the family together. So whether it’s baking cookies, decorating the tree, looking at the Christmas lights or ice skating, these types of family traditions build loving, emotionally healthy children. Make sure your rituals have touch, eye contact and playfulness. This will strengthen the dopamine in your child’s brain which helps them focus and connect. Children that feel connected are more likely to cooperate.

As a parent, we want to give our children the most magical Christmas possible. In the end, you are the best present you can give your child, so be the present with your presence. My grown sons’ best memories of Christmas are not the toys that they received; it was the anticipation and the surprise that they remember. So have fun with it and you’ll have a joyous holiday full of fond memories that will last a lifetime without all the meltdowns.

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