Surviving the Holidays

Tips from TLC’s Testing, Tutoring, and Counseling Department

The holiday season is upon us with all its magic and excitement! This time of year often includes many of our favorite holiday traditions. Many parties and get-togethers are being planned and lots of activities are having their “end of the year” events. This year it is even more exciting as families and friends are starting to get together more, even starting to travel again. It’s a time of anticipation! A time to celebrate! A time to eat really good food and to stay up later than normal!

However, in this flurry of excitement and energy, it can also be a time that brings an avalanche of meltdowns! Even kids who are fairly even-keeled can lose control of their emotions in all the added activity and energy that the holiday season brings. So, families with kids who already struggle with BIG emotions during the rest of the year, could find themselves feeling anxious and anticipating the worst. Here are some survival strategies that will help everyone get through the holidays with (hopefully) a little less drama.

  • Make a schedule for your child so they know what to expect each day. This could be as simple or detailed as your child needs to feel comfortable. It could include approximate times they’ll be arriving and/or leaving, who might be there, and some things to expect or prepare for while they are there.
  • Be sure to set aside some quiet or downtime, or just some “me” time, especially before a busy evening. Encourage your child to take a nap, engage in a quiet activity, or get outside to burn off some excess energy before the festivities begin.
  • Take time for yourself in a similar way. Hire a babysitter or arrange a playdate so that you can get in some uninterrupted shopping, cleaning, or cooking done, or just to have a quiet couple of hours to yourself. This will help you to maintain your own calmness and keep your emotions in check. Children look to the adults in their lives for how to react in situations, so keeping your cool will help your child keep theirs.
  • Recognize the signs when your child is starting to get overwhelmed during the party or celebration so you can help them manage their feelings. Develop a “secret signal” to check in with them or help them get out of a situation. This could be a special word or a simple thumbs up. Make certain rooms “off limits” to guests so kids have a place to go when they are feeling overwhelmed or tired. Also, allow kids to put certain toys away that they don’t want others playing with. This can eliminate some conflicts and meltdowns before they even start. If you’re visiting, find a quiet place to sit and talk, or take a short walk to get some air.
  • Finally, try to keep reasonable expectations for how the day will go and plan for the hiccups along the way. This means balancing your needs and the needs of your child, setting boundaries with family and friends, and planning ahead.