Helpful Tips to Avoid Meltdowns this Holiday Season
taken from the Child Development Institute (CDI) website
It’s hard to believe that December is already here! No matter what you celebrate, the season is busy and takes us outside our usual routines. This can be stressful for children as well as parents. Our kiddos often get lost in the shuffle when we usher them from one store to another, one party to the next, and then get too busy to allow enough time for relaxing activities. Ironically, we often lack the time to enjoy each other’s company at this time of the year. Here are some tips to ensure quality time between you and your child this holiday season.
- Plan shopping trips around your child’s natural rhythm. Malls and grocery stores can overload a tired child’s sensory system. To avoid meltdowns, plan your trips to the store when your child is most refreshed (e.g. after a nap or early in the morning). If that’s not possible, try to go to the store off peak hours. In order to keep your time in the store to a minimum, bring a list of all the items you need and stick to it. It will also be more tolerable for your child if you plan multiple short shopping trips rather than one long one.
- Bring snacks and water with you. Meals can get irregular when we’re busy. Nutritious snacks can help children get through an overly long day. Tantrums, however, are not always about food. We often think of sensory processing, poor sugar regulation and tiredness when we see a child’s meltdown, but hydration is just as likely to be a contributing factor.
- Bring sensory soothing items for your child. A little planning goes a long way. Prepare a sensory kit for your child, filled with activities that calm his nervous system down and help him regulate. Some children like to blow bubbles, others like to play with resistance bands, a soft piece of fabric, theraputty, or connecting tubes. Speak to your child’s occupational therapist about what will work for your child.
- Involve your child in all the cooking and baking. Children can feel ignored when their parents are busy preparing for the holidays. Involving children in baking or cooking is a wonderful sensory experience and provides quality bonding time. They can help mix batter, roll out dough, measure and pour spices—the possibilities are endless.
- Have your child help make cards or presents. A great way to avoid the holiday commotion, and create more meaning around gift giving, is to make cards and/or presents. It can be an opportunity to slow down and just enjoy the playfulness of creating something out of nothing. It also shows children that creativity is a gift that can be used to bring joy to yourself and others.
- Schedule downtime. Make sure that each day includes unstructured playtime. Studies show that children process their world through their imagination and play. It is their natural way to relieve stress and learn from what they have experienced and observed.
- Remember the sensory system. Just because we’re busy does not mean that our children’s needs change. Children should still stimulate their sensory system with activities such as jumping, swinging, crawling, smelling, touching, pushing, pulling, and chewing. Every day should provide a feast for their senses. Stimulating the sensory system helps with self-regulation.
- Respect their need for sleep. Sleep schedules become even more important during stressful and busy times. Respect their body’s need for predictable and regular sleep. Make it a priority for the whole family. Children who are well-rested will handle the holiday commotion much better. Sleep allows us to be more flexible and helps us process stress better. Speak to your child’s therapy team for tips on how to create an ideal bedtime routine.