Christmas- one of the most anticipated times of the year – the times of families coming together, of good cheer, peace on earth, and— oh goodness, behavior-challenged children. You’ve seen them in the malls throwing tantrums, at a relative’s house refusing to stay at the table and eat, or in the grocery store whining. I just saw it yesterday in my own grandson at the dentist’s office. What is it about this time of year that can turn normally well-behaved children into being unrecognizable and cranky?
If you think about it, children are particularly vulnerable at holiday time. Everyone is moving fast from one activity to another, and before long, everyone is worn down. When children are caught up in that, they feel the stress, too, and it usually shows itself in their behavior. It is frustrating and worrisome, but it is preventable.
Having a plan and being prepared is the best way to stay out of trouble. So, as we approach the Holiday season, here are a few tips from “Keep Kids Healthy” to help ward off behavior that results in a time out at Grandma and Grandpa’s or coal from Santa.
- Instead of plugging in the favorite video, send your children out into the yard to run and play, or take a walk through the neighborhood with them to look at decorations. Physical activity is a great stress reliever, and children need plenty of it every day.
- Children love their routines, but they are often the first things to go at holiday time. While you may feel pulled and tugged in a million directions, try to keep bedtimes and mealtimes as consistent as you can. When there have to be deviations in the routines, share the changes with your child before they occur. They will not feel so disrupted.
- There is lots of food during the holidays – not all of it healthy. Share at least one healthy meal a day as a family. Pack healthy snacks to take along when you are out and about so you can keep sugary treats and fast foods to a minimum. Good nutrition is important.
- Talk to your children about your behavior expectations throughout the holiday, and be specific. It is not enough to just say, “Now, I want you to be good”. Children need to know that they must hold your hand in the store, or stay in their chair at the dinner table. Once they understand what you expect, a gentle reminder before you make that trip to the mall or go to grandmother’s house for dinner should ward off the most challenging behavior.
- Rest and relax. A well-rested child is more likely to be well-behaved, and a well-rested parent is more likely to remain calm and patient when challenging behavior occurs. A great way to wind down before bedtime is to cuddle up together on the sofa and share a Holiday movie.
- Establish and keep family traditions – they last long after those fabulous new toys have been forgotten. They offer comfort and security to children as they grow, give them something to anticipate, and become fond memories of what the holiday season really means in their family.
Let the holidays be the most wonderful times of the year in your home – a time of joy and togetherness. May they be blessed, safe, happy and stress-free.