If you're reading this, you're quite likely a parent, grandparent or carer of young children. You're also likely exhausted. I really hope you get to put your feet up a few times over the Christmas and New Year season.
I'll be honest, I really wanted to write the words 'avoid meltdowns' in the title but settled with 'limit' because let's face it, children are human so 'limit' is much more realistic on a day that can be both exciting and very overwhelming. Expecting a little person with a brain which is a long way from being fully developed yet (not until early 20's) to keep their emotions in check on a day that is:
out of their normal routine,
often loud with voices and music,
maybe crowded with many more people around than normal - some they only see occasionally so may not be as comfortable with,
receiving hugs and kisses from extended family perhaps in greater amounts than normal,
full of food they don't like or like too much (mmm gingerbread and chocolates!),
eating lunch / dinner at times they are not used to,
moving from one house to the next,
maybe being overwhelmed with gifts - some they don't like.
To add to this, if they're anything like my children were, they're probably so excited to see what Santa has left for them that they don't really sleep well the night before. Plus, chances are, many of the parents and adults are also going to be exhausted at this time of year and it's human nature that when we are exhausted, we are less tolerant of certain behaviours or situations.
The umbrella strategy
If you check the weather report and it says high likelihood of rain, there's a good chance you'll take an umbrella with you. So, I invite you to to think of this blog like the weather report "all the signs are indicating likelihood of meltdown". Solution - come prepared - have a think about what might be your child's triggers on the day and you might be able to prevent showers from turning into storms.
9 tips to help everyone enjoy the day...
Give your child a 'heads up' the day before, or earlier, explaining what the day will be like. It might be helpful to have a conversation about how you would like your child to respond to receiving a gift they either don't like or have multiple of. Acknowledge how your child might feel about this. Very few young children have an understanding of the value of money and are still learning about gratitude. Of course we still want to teach them this but we also can't expect them to remember this all the time.
If travelling around on the day, allow your child to bring one of their new toys with them. No-one wants to be given something wonderful then be told they have to leave it behind all day. Also expect they will not want to share it.
Find out what food is going to be available and if need be, bring some food you know your child will enjoy. Maybe you're child can help you make some special Christmas food they like to share with everyone.
Bring a 'calm-down' kit with you of a few things you know normally calms your child. Let them know where it will be if they need it. If you are at your house consider allowing your child to spend a little time in their room on their own to help escape the excitement and 'chaos'. Alternatively, if going to someone else's place, bringing along a small pop up play tent can be a comforting haven for your child to escape to for a little while. Keep an eye out for any clues your child might be starting to become unsettled.
Children under the age of about 2 yrs quite often prefer playing with the wrapping paper or box the gift came in. There might be some family members that will need a heads up about this so they don't feel disappointed when they see the child cast aside the actual gift to put the shredded paper on their head instead.
Any piece of equipment Santa needs to assemble the night before WILL take longer than the instructions indicate and there is probably not going to be anywhere open after about 5pm on Christmas Eve should Santa require any additional tools or batteries. Also, is Santa giving anything that will need to be charged before it can be used?
On the big day, have spare batteries and some scissors close by to cut the multitude of little plastic security ties that often attach toys to their packaging.
If your child does have a meltdown, take a breath and remember that in this moment, they need you more than ever to help them calm down by staying calm yourself. Yes, I know this can be easier said than done, especially if other family members are watching and you feel your parenting is being judged. Consider going outside with your child or to a different room.
Be realistic about your expectations of your child for the day. Aim for creating moments of peace, fun and connection rather than expecting the whole day will be amazing.
For further information and support, I invite you to contact: