Holiday Tears and Tantrums

During the holiday season, watch for signs of stress in your children.  It can be a time of too little sleep and quiet moments and too much excitement, activity, and food. Is it any wonder the tears and tantrums come easily? No, I’m not talking about you – I’m thinking about the children. So here are five things I’ve found that children need during the holidays.

A small girl cries and clings too the feet of her mother

Children need consistency. Keep bedtime rituals like stories and games. Spend time cuddling on the couch. Extra hugs are in order. If you are away from home during the holidays, pack a special blankie, pillow, or stuffed toy that is a visible reminder of sameness. Children may have trouble sleeping after a big day so having a little gift or treat can help ease them into bedtime.

Children like to be part of what is happening. The “getting to help” is more important than the end product. Remind yourself everything doesn’t have to be perfect.  Look for things the children can do and don’t get uptight about messy packages or frosting on everything but the cookies.

Children want to know what is going on. Tell them where the family is going, who will be there, what will happen.  Take time to talk with them about the holiday rituals your family observes and why these are special to your family.

Children need their space. Too many people can result in overstimulation. That’s when the tears and tantrums start in. The children may not be used to having lots of extra people around or sharing their bedroom with three cousins. Try involving the children in smaller groups of friends or relatives.

Children need some quiet time. Alternate quiet activities with active ones. You can tell when the children are getting too excited, bored, or tired. Then it is time for a story, nap, or just a few minutes together with you in another room.

Now that I read back through what the children need, I’m thinking maybe it does apply to us adults too! How do you help your children enjoy the holidays in a nonstressful way?

This blog was originally posted on 12/15/11: Holiday Tears and Tantrums

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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