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It's the most wonderful time of the year! Until your toddler
throws a massive tantrum while waiting to have his picture taken with Santa. It's a time we feel truly blessed! Except at the dinner table, surrounded by
family members on a mission to give thanks, and our youngest is in a full-on meltdown.
Holiday time is supposed to be
merry and bright, but for little ones it can be exhausting and just a little
The holiday season is when we push kids beyond their limits. From Thanksgiving through New Years, parents everywhere keep kids up late, run from event to event and
forget about the importance of relaxing and enjoying time together. The end result is always
the same: Children of all ages are tired, prone to meltdowns and, believe it or not, get sick.
Yes, the stress of the holiday hustle and bustle actually
leads to increased colds among little ones.
"It is very easy this time of year to push our
children beyond their 'best before' time," Andrea Nair, Parent Educator and creator of the Taming Tantrums app, says.
Nair identifies two major triggers of tantrums this time of year. "Many holiday tantrums revolve around two things," Nair says. "Being in
a compromised state (tired, hungry or over-stimulated) and being overwhelmed
The holiday season is
busy and parents tend to experience higher levels of stress as they attempt to
work through the never-ending to-do list and get to the holiday show on time.
Take a breath, weary parents: this parenting problem has a
solution. Follow a few of these steps to decrease major meltdowns this holiday
1. Get back to basics
Tantrums can be traced back
to what Nair refers to as a "compromised state," what I like to think of as "the
basics." Skip the long lines for Santa, late parties and town tree-lighting
when your kids are toddlers—particularly if they're easily over-stimulated. They will get more enjoyment out of these holiday
traditions as they grow, but for now cookie-baking and a few crafts at home hold more meaning.
Be sure to prioritize these four things throughout the
Sleep:Little ones need 11-14 hours of total
Eat:Holiday treats are great, but be sure to
focus on balance.
Downtime:We all need time to rest and recharge.
Tantrum tamer tip: Don't stress during a tantrum. Remain calm when your child is upset and try to avoid demanding a
reason for the meltdown. "Instead of asking our children what they need (they
are likely to be too upset to convey that)," Nair says, "take a moment to
collect your thoughts and ask yourself, 'What is it that my child needs?'" It's never too late to reevaluate and make a new plan.
Everything seems exciting during the holiday season. It's tempting to try to do it all in an effort to create lasting holiday memories. But the truth is that it doesn't take much to create a memory
2. Focus on empathy
Whether or not you feel like you're pushing your kid, it's
important to remember that the holiday season can be an emotional roller
coaster for little ones. The anticipation begins early and stretches for a
solid month before the holiday actually arrives. That's a lot of anticipation for young children, who aren't really designed to wait.
Talk about feelings with your kids. We have a tendency to gloss
over the hard stuff with the hope that focusing on the positive will keep our
kids happy. The truth is that happy
kids are the kids who know how to work through the overwhelming feelings or
negative emotions that can naturally occur on any given day.
Tantrum tamer tip: While
it's tempting to hand out consequences when meltdowns occur mid-party, it's
best to empathize with kids in the heat of the moment. "Offer and hug and say
something like, 'I see you are mad and I understand'", says Nair. Sometimes
acknowledging their feelings is the best way to help kids calm down in the
3. Slow down
"I have found it helpful to adopt this little mantra at
holiday time: Take on only what you can take care of," suggests Nair. Wise
words from a mom who has seen her fair share of tantrums, indeed.
Everything seems exciting during the holiday season. It's
tempting to try to do it all in an effort to create lasting holiday memories. But the truth is that it doesn't take much to create a memory. Some of my
favorite holiday memories involve baking cookies, a book by the fireplace and
decorating the tree that never seemed to stand up straight. We don't need to
attend every function and join every event to create memories for our kids, we
just need to spend time together.
Tantrum tamer tip: One
of my favorite tantrum tamers comes straight from The
Happy Kid Handbook—blowing up balloons. Coach your child through
relaxation breathing (in for 3, hold for 3, out for 3) while your child
envisions blowing up a beautiful balloon with any design they choose. After
they breathe out, be sure to tie a string to the balloon and use one last deep
breath to send that balloon off to find a loved one. Kids love the
visualization and the relaxation breathing helps calm their bodies and minds.