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Helping Kids Avoid Holiday Melt-Downs

On the radio you hear the lyric, “Oh, it’s a holly, jolly Christmas . . .”  and you think, “Really?”  The kids are making their 104th lap around the kitchen, their commotion has caused the cranberry sauce to go flying across the room resulting in a festive red pattern on the carpet and walls, the adults are the only people who are sleepy (and they’re not going to sleep due to said commotion), and you are looking for the jolly in this Christmas.  

Or, maybe the kids are screaming: maybe they didn’t get the toy they TOLD you they wanted, or maybe they are upset that they didn’t get to do something they wanted to do. 

The holidays are filled with high expectations: a recipe for disappointment and disaster.  Some holiday traditions accentuate the disaster.  How do you avoid a holiday that requires your taking a holiday just to recover?

  • Communicate reasonable expectations to all parties involved. Let kids know what will be happening and what they can expect from the activities. Inflated expectations generally result in crushed hopes, disappointment, and sometimes consequent acting-out behaviors.
  • As difficult as it may be, strive to maintain a normal schedule. There will be days where the kids eat or get to bed later than usual because of evening holiday activities, but keep the kids’ schedule as normal as possible. Sleep and dining schedule disruptions make it more difficult to manage kids’ expectations and emotions.
  • With all the festive goodies that are everywhere this time of year, it’s tempting to grab one of everything. The gingerbread men look so tasty. The decorated sugar cookies are amazing. And everywhere, you smell all the wonderful treats of the season. Sugar rushes become sugar crashes when the sugar high has worn off. Kids can go from the sugar-induced world-record dash around the neighborhood to the crash of crabby and demanding behaviors that is a nap in the making. The best way to avoid this is to restrict sugar intake. For example, your kids may be allowed to select two goodies per evening during the holidays. (Note: you may want to model this behavior for your kids. It will seem “unfair” to the kids if you grab three cookies for yourself and consume them instantaneously while the kids are allowed only two treats for the whole evening. If you wish to consume more sugar than two treats per evening, simply wait until the children are in bed before having your additional treats.)
  • Sometimes, life gets so full with all the holiday activities that we forget to take time to value the people closest to us. The grade school choir concert is at 7:00 p.m. Tonight is also your company’s family holiday party, which starts at the same time. So, you’ll go to the concert to hear your little angels sing, and then you’ll all go to the company party, arriving late, but showing up nonetheless. By the time you get home, you’re tired and it’s way past bedtime. You tuck the kids into bed, and then you’re off to bed yourself. You haven’t had time to hear how your kids’ day went. Your kids go to bed feeling shuttled from event to event without having their psychological well-being validated. They may, as a result, feel like you didn’t care about them that day. So, it’s best to take time to say, “How was your day?” Take time to sit patiently as your child answers your question. Ask follow-up questions to reinforce that you are interested in how your child feels about how the day unfolded.
  • Get comfortable saying no to activities. If your calendar is full to overflowing, and one of your civic organizations asks you to help put on it’s holiday program, it’s ok to say no. You can’t do everything. Invest your time in what matters most. Your kids need your attention during the holidays just as they do at any other time of the year.
  • If you and your kids have time, choose baking or crafts that are holiday-specific: something fun that you can enjoy together.
  • Holiday catalogs can be one of a mom’s best friends. When the catalogs arrive, have your kids show you what they would like. (Make sure they know that they won’t necessarily get everything they want.) Have them review the catalogs again several days later in case their wants vary from day to day. Then, once you know what they would like, you can select some items and purchase them quickly and easily via telephone or Internet. Fewer hours spent shopping can result in more quality time with your family.
  • Don’t threaten the kids that if they don’t behave, that Santa will not come. Praise the kids often. Kids crave praise, and fear-inducing is often counter-productive.
  • Select an activity in which you and your family can serve others, perhaps volunteer at a local soup kitchen. The lesson of empathy, love, and understanding toward others can be tied into the message of this holiday. Take time to tell your kids what this holiday means to you and the faith that your family shares. Tell stories about the historical events of your faith that are celebrated this holiday season.

We wish you a joyous holiday season from Care4hire.com.

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