For children, Christmas can be overwhelming, tiring and fun - all at the same time. There is an entire ritual that occurs on Christmas and that children are not yet familiar with.
Holidays can be intense for children, as everything is new to them: the Christmas tree, gifts, Santa Claus, guests… It is easy to see how emotions and moods can escalate quickly. So here are a few ideas to get you and your child in ship-shape for the holiday season.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes
The emotional build-up to Christmas is often a lot for small children. Especially since the shops start advertising their Christmas merchandise from late October, the sensory overload for children can be overwhelming.
Just going to the shops means that your child[ren] will be exposed to the Christmas music, flashing lights, toys on display everywhere and big crowds. So there’s a ramp-up of energy that can be exhausting for children in itself because all their senses are firing all the time.
Explain what’s going to happen
Before celebrations and festivities, bring your child up to speed on what’s about to happen (especially if they’re old enough, around three years old).
Tell your child that Christmas is going to be a really busy day and let them know if you will have people visiting, or if you will be visiting friends and relatives. Explain who they are, and that those people will have some special things for them because they love them. That gives them context and they can then predict what is going to happen.
It’s also better to talk beforehand about the subject of presents to prevent possible meltdowns along the way.
Are you visiting friends or relatives and other children are going to be there? Use their names and say who they are and what your child’s connection is to them. Explain they will probably get presents too, which may be different to what your child will get. Let your child know that they might love what the other children get, but it’s important to remember it’s their present.
Adjust your expectations
It’s true, the Christmas spirit is all about sharing, but this might be an unrealistic expectation for a toddler. The excitement of expecting Santa and the presents they’re about to receive has built up for a while now, so it might be unrealistic to expect them to keep a rational perspective on things.
Children become really passionate about things. Adults do too. For a child who’s just starting to explore what their emotions feel like, asking to share is a big ask. This is an early learning stage for your child, so it’s all about support.
Check on them regularly
During the Christmas festivities keep an eye on your child and check on how they are dealing with it all. It helps to talk openly about how you’re both feeling.
- Ask them, “Hey, how are you going? It’s been a busy morning!”
- Call it for what it is, “Gosh, we were up early this morning!”
- Or “I’m feeling a little bit floppy right now, do you want to come sit on the couch with me for a bit?”
Find time for breaks
After the Christmas lunch you may feel like laying down in front of the TV, but it may not work the same with your child. They have a harder time cooling down after an emotional high and may need more time to calm down.
Help your child relax by spending some one-on-one time with them, snuggling or reading together.
When you are parent, Christmas is not stressful and overwhelming. It is just different.
The success of an unforgettable holiday lies in getting ready for it ahead of time: think about what might happen, put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to see the world through their eyes:
- What is new to them?
- What might they ask?
- What could attract them or frighten them?
- How can you make them understand what is happening?
- What will they eat and how can this influence their behaviour? (there is a tendency to eat too many sweets around holidays, and this can result in hyperactive behaviour)
You, your family and your child will enjoy the magical holidays by being open minded, flexible and mindful of your emotions. You can all have a calm and relaxing Christmas this year. Give it a try!
Content provided by Playgroup NSW media partner: