Surviving Holiday Meltdowns
Despite prayers and wishes to the contrary, we cannot control our children’s behaviours. We CAN control our own and that is especially important when Holiday celebrations become holiday disasters. Here are 5 tips to get you invited back next year:
1. Problems are rarely solved in the heat of the moment. When you have to jump in, use words that notice rather than judge: I saw hitting; I hear rude language; I see everyone needs a quick break (rather than: YOU just hit your sister; How dare you call him a rude name? Get your hands off of the turkey!) Sentences that start with “I” usually help to instill calm which can lead to step two.
2. Get the child out of the situation before you deal with it. When we are in public, it is easy to feel judged by every other adult in the room. Embarrassment may invite manipulation from your child and may push you over the edge. Get to a bathroom, a change room, your car or a quiet area. Then move on to step 3.
3. Let the feelings out of the child. When humans are emotional, the logic part of our brains shut down (adults and kids). So, the heat of the moment is not the time to have a logical conversation about why what your child did was wrong. Nor is it the time to ask 20 questions: Why did you stick that marshmallow up your nose? How dare you tell Aunt Ruth that her breath stinks? Instead, let the child get the emotions out, get the crying calmed down and work together for a quick plan of action which includes steps 4 and 5.
4. What can we do to be sure the “action” doesn’t happen again? Tell the child what to do not what not to do , “Marshmallows go in your mouth not your nose” OR “You need to ask before you pull Uncle Tom’s moustache and if he says no, you say – ok Uncle Tom.”
5. How do we make amends? A forced apology isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Kids can find other ways to make amends and it might need to come the day after: a picture for the host, a note scribed by the parent and signed by the child. An offer to pick up all the marshmallows and buy a new bag (allowance comes in handy here).
This is not to say that consequences or logic can’t prevail in the end. It is just that in the heat of the moment, someone needs to act like an adult, acknowledge feelings and create a few action steps. Then we step back into the party OR if the child isn’t up to it, we head home to bed and make a note to do things differently next year.