How To Handle A Holiday Party Melt-down

Child Holiday Melt-downYou’re stressed out over finding the perfect gifts for your children or the holiday dinner that you haven’t begun to plan and the last thing you want is a melt-down while you’re trying to cross something off your list, or worse during your family holiday dinner.

The holidays is a joyous and stressful time for everyone including your child. There’s so much expectation for the celebration to go well, and for your distant relatives to see your children on their best behavior. The festivity and changes in your routine are difficult for children to cope with. If your child normally can’t wait 5 minutes for something they want, imagine the anxieties from waiting days and weeks to get a present (or the threat of being on the naughty list). This is the perfect combination to send you and your child into a total melt-down.

First of all, take a deep breath and remind yourself to enjoy the holidays. Don’t take things too seriously. Some things won’t go according to plan, but most things will. When you are more relaxed, your children will be also. Melt-downs often happen because children are tired or hungry. So keep them fed (not too many sugary foods) and make sure they get a good nights rest before the big day. When things don’t go as smoothly as you’d like, here are a few suggestions that might help you through it.

Clue Them In:
It helps to let your children in on what is going on: which stores you’ll need to stop by, who will be visiting, how you’d like for them to behave during the event. Let them help you to come up with a solution on what happens when things get too rowdy. For example, let them know they can’t run around the house full of guests holding their food and wine. Make a game of it, if anyone breaks the rule and starts running, they’ll all need to start moving in super slow motion. When the kids start moving in slow motion, I bet you’ll get some big belly laughs from them and the adults. This makes the limit you set into a fun game, and the children will enjoy keeping an eye on each other to see who breaks the rule first.

Good Manners:
Sometimes our anxiety comes from not knowing if our children will be courteous when they receive a gift they don’t like, or take a bite from the buffet table that doesn’t agree with their taste buds. Kids can be brutally honest. Don’t ask them to tell a white lie so Aunt Hilda doesn’t get her feelings hurt. Simply remind them to say thank you and leave it at that. Also, greeting distant relatives is not easy for children. It is normal to not want to hug someone unfamiliar. Children should follow their instincts around “strangers”, so don’t force them to get close to anyone they don’t feel comfortable with. It’s best to offer an alternative such as a high five or wave.

Show empathy:
During a melt down, sending your child to his room or a time out doesn’t address the problem and normally escalates the situation. First, get low to their level and make eye contact. Pull them close and let him know you understand his needs. For example, “I know you really really really want to have that cake now, but let’s find a good place to save it that only you know.” Or “We can make a sign with your name on it so no one else will eat it, and you can have it right after you finish your dinner.” Then ask your child to help you find the perfect place to leave his piece of cake. Or ask if you can help him cut the first slice of cake, describe how big of a piece, which end he wants to take the first bite, or take him to the kitchen to find a big spoon he can use to eat it. A playful distraction that offers him some say in what’s going on will usually ease his tension.

I haven’t heard of a holiday party without anything going wrong. When it happens, see it as an opportunity to connect with your child and to find a solution for both of you. Allow yourself to be a little playful and be merry.

annA Mom Knows Contributor

About Ann

After working over 10 years as an art director at the Walt Disney Studios, I became a stay-at-home mom. My experience as a first-time mom inspired me to publish a book called "Quick Tips For First-Time Moms: A Simple and Practical Guide to Finding Balance". I love using my creativity to solve problems. From organization to recycling, parenting to party planning, I continue to find new interests and inspirations through spending time with my child.

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