Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

It’s time once again for Heather Johnson from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her “Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. Here’s Heather in her own words and sharing how parents should support kids and their interests.


helping-kids-with holidays

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is
already here. Where did the year go?

Naturally we want the holiday’s to be wonderful
for our families. We want everyone to get along, visits to be pleasant, and
days filled with holiday cheer.
But…the holidays can be very stressful. Stressful
for adults, and really stressful for kids.
The problem with our children feeling stress is
that they don’t know how to handle it. So they manifest their frustration in
temper tantrums and meltdowns. These meltdowns are sure to put a damper on our
Thanksgiving and Christmas plans.
Here are a few key things we can do to curb the
tantrums and make this holiday season much more pleasant for all of us.
Set Realistic Expectations
We have all watched the holiday movies that
portray the perfect family celebrations. But, when the holidays don’t always go
as planned we can get stressed and upset and loose patience with our kids. It
is unrealistic to think that just because it is Thanksgiving or Christmas that
our children are going to be perfect angels. It is still real life and we need
to be flexible and keep a clear perspective. Otherwise, we can quickly
let our expectations for the holidays become more important than our
It is also easy to get frustrated with all the
extra requests for treats and toys and stuff they see on TV. Instead of letting
the increase in demands surprise you, keep your expectations realistic and
expect them. It is normal.
Make your expectations and consequences
clear ahead of time and try to find ways to say “yes” instead of
always saying “no.” (When your kids are continually asking for more sugar,
instead of immediately saying “no”, change your answer to “you
can have more crackers and cheese, or an apple”.) Kids automatically
resent “no”, so, focus on what they can have or can do, instead of what they can’t.
See things from your
child’s point of view.
Remember when you were a child? Remember all the
excitement and anticipation leading up to this time of year? Our children don’t
understand the stress we might be dealing with preparing. All they know is that
they are really excited.
Let them be excited. Let them enjoy the season. If we will see
the holidays from their point of view, it will make it much easier to be
patient with them. 
Keep a Schedule
It is vital to stay consistent with
nap times, bed times and meals. The best way to avoid meltdowns is to
keep naps and bedtime regular. 
When our children get tired there is
This can be hard to do. There will
be lots of activities and visitors, parties and get-togethers. Schedules will
be challenged. We will have to make some exceptions, but we need to try and
hold strong. We might need to say “no” to a few of the activities and keep some
sort of routine.
It is also okay to speak up. One of
our first Christmas’s, I went to put our son down for a nap. One of our
relatives gave me a guilt trip and said, “I am only here for a few days, a nap
is more important than him being with me”?
Yep, the nap is most important.
The sleep will keep him happy. Which will make your visit much more pleasant.
Protect your kids and get them food and sleep.
Get Some
Sleep Yourself
When we are tired, we can be short tempered, agitated and
quickly loose our patience. We need to take care of ourselves so that we are
better able to take care of our children and handle the demands and excitement
of the season.
with our Children
Communicate about upcoming events,
parties and activities. Give them adequate notice and talk to them about
expectations and behaviors before you get there.
The holidays also bring emotions
that our children don’t understand. They don’t understand the difference
between needs and wants. They don’t understand how time works (Are we there
yet? Can I open presents yet?). They also don’t understand the difference between
I am really hungry and tired AND, I want to throw myself on the floor and throw
a fit. Talk to them about emotions and help them understand how they are
Other suggestions…
ü  Have a “yes day”. Spend a day saying yes to everything you possibly can. You will find that
giving them some freedom to choose, some power over their own lives, will
improve their behavior and your relationship.
ü  Don’t threaten. Saying
“Santa won’t come to our house if you don’t stop crying,” in the long run, will
not help.
ü  Don’t overschedule you,
or your family. Limit adult activities to no more than three a week (at the
most). Leaving kids with a baby sitter every night of the week will cause them
stress. Pick the most important events and say “no” to the rest.
ü  Plan a family activity
over the holiday breaks. Set aside time to be together. Spending time together
will do wonders for your children’s behavior and build long lasting memories.
ü  Go on a weekly date
with your spouse. Dates help us refuel and reconnect. This will give us more
patience for the season and our children.
ü  Spend one-on-one time
with your children. When we get busy with the holidays, our kids might not feel
like they are getting the attention they need, so they act out. Find a way to
spend 15 minutes with each of your children each day and they won’t have the
need to misbehave to get your attention.
ü  If
you are going to be traveling or even away from the house for more than 3
hours, plan to take breaks. For every 3 hours, take a 20-30 minute break for
your kids to do something fun.
ü  There
will be lots of last minute preparations to take care of. All these errands can
take their toll on our kids. Consider their schedules and nap times and go easy
on them.
Solid research shows that spending time together and having
experiences together means more and creates stronger, happier memories, than
getting or having “things.”
This holiday season, if we want less
temper tantrums and meltdowns, worry less about all the stuff, and spend more
time together.
Does the
holiday season stress you out?
Have you
ever gotten the guilt trip from a family member during a holiday visit? 

Have a question or just want to say hello.


  1. Veronica says

    Thanks for the post, it is very easy to loose site of the important things during the holidays. I know my 3 and 5 year old do not have the skills to deal with the stress. My 5 year old really needs all plans discussed and planed for or she does not deal well. I did see a wonderful idea on pintrest of course. A advent calendar the has easy family activities to do together each day vs. “stuff” or sugar. I think I will try to incorporate this in to our holiday traditions.

    • says

      Hi Veronica,
      Thank you for your comment! I love that you have identified the needs of your children. What a blessing when you understand how they think and work. And I am a huge Pinterest fan also. I will have to see if I can find the advent calendar you are talking about. Sounds great.

  2. says

    Hi! Helpful article — love all of your sugestions!, and esecially love the “Yes Day”! My kids really struggle with us parents getting to decide “everything!”, so they will certainly enjoy this! I find that yoga really helps my kids to relax when they are stressed out — really it works quite magically for my 6 yr-old! Here is a post about benefits of yoga, as well as a great video for your kids to try it today (or tomorrow!) http://fresh-you.blogspot.com/2012/10/yoga-benefits-for-all-and-cosmic-kids.html Enjoy, and happy holidays!

    • says

      Hi Colleen, thanks for your comment. Glad you found the suggestions helpful. I love the idea of yoga! I can imagine it would be great for children. I know it does wonders for me. :)

  3. says

    hello ,
    I am an Indian tween and I luv to blog and ur blog is fantastic … pls check my blog toooo ….. !

  4. Natalie says

    Thank you for all of your posts. You have given me new ways to help deal with situations with my family, and have reminded me to do somethings that I knew but have forgotten to do.

  5. sara k says

    I really enjoyed this post. These are such simple things that we need to remember when things get crazy during this season! I have also fallen into that trap of skipping naps because family pressures me to. I always regret it too! I will look forward to more tips!

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