Heading off Holiday Meltdowns: Helping Kids Manage their Excitement Around Holiday Gatherings and Events

The holidays bring a lot of fun and excitement for kids. There are lots of fun social gatherings, events, and gift giving and receiving! For kids, especially young ones, all of this excitement is kind of like slowly climbing up a hill to get to the very top of holiday fun. The trick is not to fall down the other side and end up with a holiday letdown and behaviors like meltdowns, tantrums, and general grumpiness. You can help your child avoid getting over-excited and make the waiting easier with these tips for helping kids manage their excitement around holiday gatherings and events:

Talk with kids about the events ahead of time. Let your child know what will be happening and the expectations for events and gatherings. Think about some key things that would be helpful for your child to know about ahead of time. For some kids, it might be helpful to go over details; for others too many details or talking about events too far in advance can cause some anxiety. Just keep in mind how your child reacts to situations and has helped in the past. Some key things to talk to your child about ahead of time might be:

    • What family or friends will be at the event. Will they meet new people? Who will they see that they know?
    • How to greet others. This could be especially helpful if your child is more reserved at gatherings. Talk about how to say hello, how to introduce yourself, how to ask someone’s name, etc.
    • What they can do at the gatherings, who they might play with, what activities they might be able to do there.
    • Expectations at the event. Maybe you’re going to a large event and want your child to stay with you. Maybe you know they have a hard time leaving events, so you talk to them about the expectations for leaving the event ahead of time and let them know you’ll give them a warning.

Try to keep a consistent routine and talk with kids about changes. The excitement of the holidays can be overwhelming for kids and exhausting! Kids thrive on routines and the holidays certainly shake these up a bit and make it hard to stay consistent. Try to keep morning and bedtime routines as consistent as you can. Sticking with regular meal times is also key in preventing acting out due to grumpiness. And when you have to make big changes to your routine, talk to your child about the changes ahead of time.

Get movement in before events and gatherings. Regular movement and exercise are key for helping kids manage excess energy from all of the excitement! Make sure kids are getting daily opportunities for movement. Try to make sure kids get some movement in before a family gathering or event to help them get rid of excess energy and be in a calmer frame. Take a walk, go to the park, have a quick dance party, do some yoga! Check out these blogs for some winter break movement ideas:

Keep kids busy while at events and gatherings. A great way to help kids manage their excitement is to channel it into an activity. We want to keep them busy so they’re not getting into something we don’t want them to be doing. Make sure kids have something to do while at events and gatherings (crafts, Legos, puzzles, board games, etc.) and that they know what their choices are. Kids also love being helpers. Is there some kind of small task your child could do to help with a family gathering–for example, setting the table, putting out napkins, bringing out food, or making name cards?

Find a calm down space. It’s typical for events and social gatherings–especially if there a lot of people and noise– to be overwhelming and tiring at times for kids. If it would be helpful for your child, figure out where a calm down space could be at a gathering or in your home. Talk to them ahead of time about a space where they can take a little break and get some alone time if they need it. You could bring books, puzzles, Legos, or any other calming activities.

The holidays are an exciting time for kids and managing that excitement can be challenging for both children and parents! Remember that it’s typical to see an increase in behaviors like tiredness and even grumpiness around this time. Focus on the fun, try to think ahead, and keep kids busy!

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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2021

Image: © Les3photo8 | Dreamstime.com


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