No matter what holiday you celebrate, kids have certain needs that adults should consider during the holiday season (and all year round!).
Here is my round up of reminders for adults who are rushing and stressed with the many tasks and obligations of important holidays.
Routine – Kids feel safer and calmer when following daily life routines. Holidays throw routines up into the air like confetti, and the result can be unpleasant for everyone. Whenever possible, keep sleeping/eating/napping/family-time routines in place. If you can’t, talk to your children about what to expect. Where are they going or who will visit? What will they do and see? What is expected of them? Consider making a family calendar together depicting special events, and have children place a sticker on each day at they count down the days leading up to and including the holiday.
Play time – All children need time to play and unwind, and I am talking about open-ended play, as well as games, art and cooking activities and physical play where they can run , jump and climb and get their sillies out. Make sure they put down their electronic devices and get away from screen time.
Permission to not perform – Sometimes when we get together with family and friends over the holidays, kids are expected to be squeezed, pinched, hugged and kissed by relatives who may need this affection a lot more than the child does. If your child has sensory issues or a history of trauma, this kind of touch can feel unbearable. You can talk with your child about this phenomenon prior to gatherings and coach them on how to respond to adults in a way that is polite but helps them maintain their body integrity. You may need to run interference and advocate for your child with well-meaning relatives, letting them know what kind of touch your child can tolerate.
Positive Limit Setting – All children need limits, especially those who are wired from too much holiday sugar or excitement. However, a constant barrage of “No!” “Stop that!” “Behave!” can wear thin and get you nowhere. When setting limits, ask yourself, is this a limit that needs to be set, or am I being arbitrary? If the limit is necessary, take a few deep breaths and try your best to remember these steps.
- Name the feeling or desire the child is showing before you set the limit. “Your are so excited.” Or “You really want that toy.” Or “You are so mad at your brother”.
- Set the limit with a calm voice in a concrete way. “The furniture is not for jumping on” or “I am not buying toys today” or “Your brother is not for hitting.”
- Offer an alternative. “Let’s run/play/dance/get your sillies out.” Or “You can play with your toys when you get home.” Or “You can punch a pillow or stamp your feet”
- Repeat if necessary, but give the child a chance to reign it in and make a good decision first. They might surprise you. Avoid over-explaining why the limit needs to be set. This tends to escalate negative behavior.
Moderation – The onslaught of media can turn the nicest child into a black hole of greed – commercials are aimed at children and can overstimulate them with desire for toys that may or may not be appropriate or affordable. Try to limit unsupervised screen time. Help children narrow down desires to a few affordable choices by making lists together. More is not always better. It is okay to say “No” to their requests without shaming them for wanting the toy – blame it on the advertisers! And try not to feel guilty if you cannot afford gifts. Your love and attention are the most valuable gifts you can give them.
The video below is a great reminder to us all about what REALLY matters and what kids really need!