It is nearly here – the Wonderful Christmas time!
School concerts and assemblies, Christmas songs and decorations everywhere you go, family and friends visits, parties and celebrations and the anticipation of presents on Christmas morning.
As fun as it sounds, it might also be a very tiring and anxious time, especially for younger
children. Being thrown out of the balance and routine is always stressful, even if it is a good
and positive stress, and even if it is Christmas.
So here are five tips for you to manage any Christmas meltdowns at home during the festive
1. Stick to routine
Of course it is unlikely that you can keep going with your usual daily routine, yet it is
possible to sit down with kids and brainstorm the “Christmas holidays routine”, where
together you can set up rules about screen time, sweets, bed times and sleepovers with
Make sure to include wind-down times in your schedule for children to rest and recharge.
You know your children best – what do they need the most when they are stressed and
anxious? Make sure you acknowledge the value of soothing activities and make time for
them in the daily routine.
2. Plan ahead
Again, it is impossible to plan everything ahead and to know what you will be doing during
the whole period of festivities, yet having at least a rough plan might be a very good idea, as
children feel much better when they know the sequence of events and operate in a
predictable world. Speak to them about visitors and guests, let them know when you are
going to see great-grandma and how long that will take. Take into account the different
personalities of your children and as much as you want to spend most of the holidays
together, maybe leave a tired child at home to enjoy some quiet reading time, while taking
the more outgoing one to see a show.
To avoid disappointment for yourself, be ready for plans to turn upside down and if that
happens , just breathe and enjoy a cup of tea (or mulled wine)
3. Manage expectations
That’s a tough one. We’ve all seen the funny “expectations vs reality” memes and still have
a perfect picture in our head of a beautiful family in matching pyjamas happily opening
presents with glorious white Christmas snow outside. Well, that’s probably not going to
happen… AND THAT’S OK.
Start with yourself, and let your Christmas be imperfect. Enjoy the imperfection. Be
prepared for children to not react how you imagined to the most amazing Christmas
presents and manage expectations of other adults too. Let them know that your child might
not want to hug or kiss them in exchange for gifts or sweets. Let them know that your
children are happy. No one should expect more than that from your child; you can only
teach them to say "please" and "thank you." Never compel a child to express affection in
order to receive a present.
4. Look after yourself
This one is even tougher. But it is extremely important. You want to enjoy Christmas parties,
good company and wine but then have to be up at 5am with excited little children, looking
fresh and joyful. Make sure you allow yourself time to balance it out, remember to stay
hydrated, eat some healthy things and have your own down-time planned. You need
yourself to be responsive, responsible and resourceful, not reactive and exhausted.
Also, it’s easy when family and friends’ are gathering to fall into the trap of being
embarrassed by your child’s behaviour – too loud, too quiet, not grateful enough, jumping
on the couch or breaking family porcelain – anything could happen. Yet, these are exactly
the times when your child needs you to remain composed so that you can help them calm
down. It is important for us to have resources to do it and it is crucial that we take care of
ourselves as well. Make sure you take time for yourself, and keep in mind that you are the
best person to judge what your family needs because you are the one who knows them
5. Be Prepared
Even if you follow all of the tips above, you will still need to be prepared for things taking a
completely different turn. The smallest thing might trigger the biggest meltdown and the
best we can do when facing the storm is to let it pass.
Be there for your child, without judgement and impatience, just let them know that you are
with them calmly and patiently. Maybe they want a hug; maybe they don’t. Maybe they
need some time on their own or want you to sit near them and hold their hand. It is all part
of learning about themselves, their emotional world and the ways to self-regulate. Your
calmness will help them regather and calm down too. And only then you can chat through
the issue, decide what could be done differently next time and brainstorm potential
To sum it up, remember, that even though the holiday season is the most beautiful time of
year, it may also be extremely stressful.
So aim to be flexible and have a strategy and plan, which might help reduce emotional
exhaustion and meltdowns and experience the pure joy and magic of Christmas wherever
Merry Christmas to everyone!