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Thursday 6 December 2012

Why does my child fall apart during the holidays?!?

Posted at 2:03 PM



Why does my child fall apart during the holidays?!?
By: Katie Brueggen, MS LMFT
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone; however the holiday season can quickly turn into a disaster for an unprepared child.  In order to have fewer meltdowns during the holidays, there are a few key strategies that can be utilized.

  1. Set and keep a routine for the holiday break.  School age children have the majority of their week scheduled for them, and a drastic change to no schedule will lead to difficulties.  When children have predictability, meltdowns are less likely to occur as they know what is coming next.  For children unable to read, a simple picture schedule can be created.  Make sure to build in bathroom time, as extra activity and excitement may override the urgency of using the restroom.
  2. Maintain a bedtime and sleeping schedule.  Even though children are off of school for holiday break, they still need a restful night’s sleep in order to set them up for success the next day.   Maintaining a similar bedtime will make the transition back to school easier.
  3.  Give clear expectations/rules before going places.  For example, “We will be going to Aunt Cindy’s house today at 12:00 p.m.  You will eat lunch there, and open gifts.  We will leave at 3:00 p.m.”  By telling the child when you will arrive, the activities that will take place, and the time you will leave, you are setting the expectations for the event.  You then need to make sure to follow the set expectations as the child will be depending on them.
  4. Reduce excessive stimuli.  Even when going to familiar places, there may be new and/or more sensory stimuli, for example: unfamiliar smells from new foods or perfumes, increased noise, more lights, etc.  Do not force a child to try new foods during the holidays, as they may already be overloaded with excessive stimuli.  Allowing familiarity will help decrease the likelihood of a meltdown.  Also, identifying a quiet place a child can go in order to take a break from excessive noise, lights, and smells will help set the child up for success at the event. 
  5. Boredom can lead to negative attention seeking behaviors.  Have your child help you pack an “activity bag” to keep them occupied.  Also allow the child to bring a comfort item, such as a favorite stuffed animal or toy.
Following these strategies can help decrease meltdowns over the holiday season.  Also, being aware of your child’s specific needs and adjusting for them accordingly will benefit you and your child.
Happy “fewer meltdowns” Holidays!