Tip for Calming Your Child during this Holiday Season

child opening presentWith the holidays coming quickly, most parents are feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness about the upcoming gatherings of family and friends, holiday concerts, and school parties.  Whether your child loves or hates the holidays, it brings out a lot of strong emotions for both parents and children.  Here are a few reminders about ways you can help your child learn to stay calm in the midst of the holiday chaos.

First and most importantly, slow down.  Life moves fast, but the holidays are a great time to slow down and enjoy being with our children.  If life isn’t enjoyable, find ways to simplify and focus on what is most important.  If you can stay calm and enjoy the moments, hopefully your child can too.

What to do when your child inevitably misbehaves…

While it is tempting to be frustrated with a child misbehaving, especially during holiday events that they should be enjoying.  Just remember that children struggle to process and control emotions, both good and bad feelings, especially during novel situations.  Strong emotions often lead to misbehavior, and most misbehavior is a sign of being overwhelmed, confusion, over-stimulated, or tired.  One of the best things a parent can do to help is remember to first “take a break” with your child to help them calm, before taking other approaches such as a “time out” or other punishment.  Read more here about how to take a  break together to build stronger self-regulation skills: Changing from “Time-Out” to “Take a Break”

angry childHow can I prevent the meltdowns?

Emotions are complex and children need a chance to learn about a range of emotions.  The holidays are a great time to spend time working closely with your children, finding lots of small teachable moments to help them learn about emotions.  Remember emotions are not inherently good or bad; try for more neutral terms like “big emotions” or “strong emotions,” and then put the focus on being aware how emotions can cause us to behave in good or bad way.  For more ideas about teaching emotions, read here: Helping Children Learn About Emotions

Being able to stay calm is a skill that children have to learn through practice.  One of the best ways is for adults to model and show children how we stay calm.  Remember to take the time to teach the skill of self-awareness and self-regulation.  Here are some other tools you can try to teach children about staying calm:

Even with all the ideas and tools, sometimes it is okay to just remember that the holidays only last a brief time.  Soon life will return to normal with the routines of school and work.  Find whatever way you can to enjoy the time with your children.  Simplify as needed and focus on what is important.  It is okay to recognize when the holiday events are too much for your child (or you) and politely step away as needed.

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.  www.paigehays.net