Like Frosty, all of us has our melting point. There is only so much holiday hustle and bustle we can take before we become susceptible to a meltdown. The overstimulation of the holiday season is especially difficult on children who struggle with emotional regulation and change in routine. All the good cheer in the world doesn’t stand a chance against a kid who is overly tired, out of his/her element, eating “weird” food and just wants to go home!
Recognizing that holidays are prone to trigger overstimulation via unpredictability, novel activities, potentially stressful abstract ideas (big man coming down the chimney, anyone?), dietary shifts, and changes in routine makes it easier to be proactive and preventative in supporting all of the above. Nurture self-regulation versus contributing to upset (punishment during the chaotic Christmas season isn’t really fair, even though the naughty list is really tempting to use this time of year)…
Hanukkah and Christmas pulls kids out of their routine and the excitement of the season is the perfect recipe for tantrums and meltdowns to occur. While it can be difficult to set boundaries during the holidays, maintaining emotional regulation is possible. Try tailoring activities to your child and choosing developmentally appropriate activities (eg maybe no to the sleepover but yes to sledding). Plan for times of 100% presence that kids can count on (even 10-15 minutes a day is powerful) and love rituals (think of a special hand shake when saying goodbye, movie night on Friday nights, or singing holiday songs in the car).
Make like an elf and stock up on activities, sensory breaks, escape plans, and movement ideas to make the holidays happy and fun for everyone. Include older children in on decorating and ask younger kids to help put bows on the gifts. Build holiday traditions with your children so they look forward to the holidays each year.
The article below, Preparing Kids for Holiday Breaks in Routine, is chalk full of ideas that support your child(ren) during this hectic season. Planning ahead with interactive games for vacations, holiday parties and trips through the snow to Grandma‘s house is essential. Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season.