The holiday season is upon us and while it brings lots of excitement, it can also be stressful. You know what I mean! As grown-ups, we are responsible for planning the meal, making sure everyone brings a dish, the house is clean, etc. It’s a whole different kind of stress for kids. You may be thinking… What do kids have to stress about during the holidays?
My monsters know how to behave in public, generally. There are times they misbehave or act out of character. I recognize this change in behavior is due to many things. They are excited, out of their element, possibly overtired, overstimulated, and, for some, running on sugar. I must pay close attention to what is going on with my oldest because these things affect him more than my daughter.
Here are 10 things we do that help him and can help any child.
- Create a safe space. The safe space is incredibly important and works for my son and daughter. It’s somewhere they can go when they need to calm down, take a time out, or have a break from each other. This is easy to do when you are at home. It can be much more difficult when you are out in a public setting or at someone else’s house. We’ve experimented with this one over the years and finally have something that works. Their safe space is in their rooms. This is different from a child engaging in bad behavior and being sent to their room as punishment. This is identifying when the child needs a break BEFORE the bad behavior occurs or deescalating a high-tension situation before it becomes volatile (siblings close in age… arguments and fights happen). Now, keep in mind that my sons room is a nightmare. He doesn’t have a lot of free floor space left. There’s literally a tiny path that is free of toys leading from the door to his bed. The only reason it’s there is because I refuse to walk in to tuck him in at night without a path. This leaves his bed as the only free space and that’s ok. It works for him because he likes the weight of the blankets (more on that when we talk about how to fall asleep and stay asleep – stay tunes! There’ll be a freebie!) and comfort of his stuffed animals. He keeps a few books nearby so that when he needs a break, he can go read in his bed or play with his toys quietly. My daughter also has books by her bed and some toys, but she usually gets mad and tries to hide under her covers instead of doing anything. Whatever works.
- Know the triggers. Have you ever been in the store and seen kids lose their mind? Do you ever wonder why that happens? Sometimes they are brats who do not receive discipline at home and don’t know how to act in public. Sometimes they are overtired because they’ve missed a nap, or their parents must get shopping in after a long day of work and school. I get grumpy in the store and can’t always get a handle on my emotions. I certainly don’t expect a child to keep it together in certain situations when adults suck at it themselves. Here’s my point… If you know what triggers your child’s behavior you are better able to avoid those situations [understanding that some things are not completely avoidable].
- Take a break and breathe. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a walk. We also do breathing exercises when my oldest is triggered and overwhelmed. This is essential when we are in public or at someone’s house and he doesn’t have his safe space. This video is one that he enjoys.
- Balance. Are you busy running around from house to house or dinner to dinner? I’ve found that we have to balance at each house. This means ensuring the little monsters don’t overload on sugary food. Desert is my daughter’s favorite meal. She lives for it. This girl will eat like a bird all day then try to eat as much sugary food as possible for snack or desert. We have to make sure there are things she likes so she doesn’t eat too much desert. She’s sneaky too. This is my candy-holic girl y’all. Now I don’t think you’d allow your monsters to overload all those sugary treats, but I do know how sneaky they can be, especially when all that good food is sitting out for them to take without supervision.
- Work off the energy. Working off all that energy is important for your little monsters. Hopefully, they are able to go outside and run around before and after meal time. The holidays are great for getting family together and catching up with each other. It can also be pretty boring for kids when the adults sit around talking the whole time. In our case, there aren’t many kids in the family and mine are often the only ones there.
- Activity. Remember how I said my kids packed that extra bag of stuff? They have packed things for them to do while we are visiting with family and traveling to and fro in the car. It helps for them to have things from home that they can play with when they are out of their element. When we host parties at our house, we put together activities for the kids to do that are season specific. Craft stores often have lots of cool things that are already put together for the kids to do. This helps if you cannot get outside to let them work off some of that energy.
- Get a good night’s rest. Sleep is important. Sometimes we get excited before a big event because we are anxious to see people and go different places. A good night’s rest before your big event or travel can help your little monster not get as overwhelmed or be overtired. One of my monsters usually falls asleep in the car when we’re traveling. It helps her not be such a grouchy monster when we get to where we’re going.
- Eat breakfast. Kids don’t understand that holiday dinners are usually in the afternoon. They get hungry! I can speak to this one from personal experience. I become an angry mommy monster when I don’t get enough sleep or food. More often than not, my little monsters will eat breakfast but I’m busy running around trying to get things ready and skip it for myself. So this one, while for the little monsters, is more for the grown-ups. Having a frustrated grown up doesn’t help your little monsters at all and increases tension for the family when you may already be anxious about the festivities for the day.
- Plan ahead. You may or may not be able to do this. We like to plan ahead by traveling the day before the holiday to get closer to our family. This cuts down on the amount of time we are traveling on the actual holiday. We also try to plan ahead by making a list of everything we need to take. This includes clothes, toiletries, toys, activities, and anything else we may need.
- Patience and prayers. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you prepare or what little things you do to make life easier for everyone involved. Sometimes all you can do is have a little patience send up a lot of prayers that everyone will be in a good mood.
At the end of the day all that matters is that everyone had a good time. If your family is anything like mine, that includes a little bit of crazy and a whole lot of love.