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Children / fatherhood / Holidays / Mama Drama / Motherhood

Mama Drama: Making the Holiday Season Managable for Kids

Dear Mama Drama:

Last year I noticed that my daughter had a really difficult time managing her emotions and behavior during the holidays. She would fall apart at the store, family gatherings, and even at school. She is four this year so I’m hoping things will be better, but am wondering if there is anything I can do to help her handle things more smoothly?

~Hoping for smooth Holidays

(photo credit)

Dear Mama Drama:

The holiday season can be lots of fun with family to see, presents to buy, and events to attend. However, it is important to remember that preschoolers can be overwhelmed by all of the activity resulting in meltdowns, tantrums, and much less fun for all. As the busy season begins remember to:

Keep a regular schedule as much as possible. Waking up, eating, and going to bed consistently can make a huge difference for preschoolers. In addition, let her know ahead of time when the schedule is going to be different.

Create opportunities for down time and/or naps. Preschoolers can have tons of energy, but may not recognize or be able to effectively communicate when they are overstimulated or exhausted. Quiet time and naps help them to settle their nervous systems and recharge to a place where they can manage their emotions and behavior more successfully.

Limit the length of outings or set up an alternative activity for the kids such as a playdate or time with family. Hours at the mall, waiting in long lines, and driving from place to place are recipes for disaster in the world of most preschoolers. If you have to take her with you, have a plan, do it in short bursts, and bring something to keep her entertained while you shop.

Make sure kids get enough sleep. Tired preschoolers are cranky preschoolers. Remember that they need 10-12 hours of sleep every day. When they are short changed on sleep they’ll be short tempered as well.

Keep eating healthy. When you’re busy with lists of cooking, cleaning, and shopping to complete, it is easy to swing through the drive through more often than usual. Find ways to make healthy eating easy such as casseroles, one-pot or crock-pot meals, and easy fixes such as spaghetti or burritos.

Limit sugary treats. Holiday baking can be a fun family tradition, but over indulging in sugary treats can lead to big sugar crashes. Use moderation in what treats and sweets are available and how you balance them with the other foods she is eating.

Keep an eye out for early signs that a meltdown is coming and provide support to prevent it. Does your child get chatty, silly, whiny, agitated, stop listening, etc., when she’s tired? Try to notice the early signs of slight changes in behavior so you can prevent the meltdowns by offering more rest, something to eat, a run in the park, or a quiet place to just be.

Remember that behavior is how kids communicate what they need.  Stay tuned in to her needs and your holidays should be a much smoother ride.

Share your tips for riding the holiday roller coaster?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

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  1. To read these recommendations, they are almost a no-brainer. Until I realized that most people don’t put two-and-two together to actually do them! Thanks for compiling these ideas.

    • You’re so right, Amber. Not rocket science, but if we pay attention it can make a huge difference. 🙂

  2. Great ideas, Lisa. It’s easy to forget theses “little” things in the hustle and bustle of the holidays or even just a generally crazy time. We like to keep our holidays simple and avoid a lot of the crush and rush. We also take time, most nights, in December to read Christmas stories. To make meals easy, I cook a lot of soups in big batches and put some in the freezer for those nights when I don’t have much time.

    • We love the Christamas stories at night, too. There are so many great ones!
      Live the idea of big pits of soup & freezing some for those busier days. Thanks!

  3. Lisa, I think these tips go for adults too. Sometimes we get so busy caring for our children and others that we forget our needs – esp this time of year. Thanks for the great reminders.

  4. Excellent point, Jaime. We all do better when we’re rested and feeling in balance.

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