Updated: Sep 12
5 Tips to Prevent Holiday Meltdowns in Young Children
Between spending enough quality time with loved ones and keeping up with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s common for many to experience some stress and anxiety this time of year – including the youngest members of our families. From the disruption in everyday routines to the novelty of new events and traditions, this stress can often cause meltdowns in little ones. For parents, this is a tale as old as time.
This year, as many families dive back into their pre-pandemic holiday routines, gatherings and family time may be overwhelming for kids. Although it’s easy for individuals of any age to become stressed during this time, shifts from the normal patterns of sleep and mealtimes, along with new surroundings or company, may lead to heightened irritability and emotional fragility, especially in young children.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep kids on track during the holidays and ensure the whole family enjoys this year’s special moments. Here are five proven tips from The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board for parents to help make these experiences easier for their children:
1. Bring healthy snacks: Everyone, even kids, get hangry sometimes. If you have a picky eater and are worried about what they will eat, bring their favorite foods and snacks. It may seem like an impossible feat during the holidays but try to limit the amount of sweets kids eat, which can exacerbate tensions. Energy bars and fruit are handy, healthy choices.
2. Help with sleep: Children can have trouble sleeping in a new place. Help your child transition into their new space by bringing items that may optimize their sleep including a noise machine or app on your phone, noise-canceling headphones, and some favorite books. And don’t forget that beloved teddy bear or security blanket!
3. Allow alone time: For older toddlers and school-age children, alone time may be as important as nap time. Whether at home or away, try to create a dedicated space they can escape to for some downtime. Giving children a chance to be on their own or just with their siblings may allow them to recharge and be ready to reenter the holiday fray.
4. Plan ahead: Preparations to head off meltdowns can start before the holidays begin. Parents should talk with their children in a way that is right for their ages and stages to give them a sense of where they are going, who is coming, and what will happen. Books are a wonderful way to help convey these messages and lessons to children in a manner they will understand. Here are a few classics from The Goddard School’s Life Lesson Library that can be particularly helpful this time of year:
Infants & Toddlers - I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow - Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal - Calm Down Time by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marieka Heinlen
Preschool & Kindergarten - Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along by Howard Binkow & Reverend Ana, illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison - You Get What You Get by Julie Gassman, illustrated by Sarah Horne - Me First by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
5. Pay attention: Be mindful of people or situations your child may find challenging. Consider having them take a moment in a quiet place to let them talk through what they are feeling or why they are upset. Redirect and distract them if you think it may help. Bring out paper and crayons or head outside for fresh air and a walk. Like adults, children may have an overflow of energy. With some playing and imagination, they can quickly dispel their frustrations.
Regardless of the careful preparation parents may take, holiday meltdowns can and will still happen. When they do occur, parents should give their children time to emote and, most importantly, be supportive and empathize with them.
If your child is willing to talk about it, remind them these things happen to everyone, including yourself, and it’s okay when they do.