With holiday season in full swing, it’s hard for parents to keep everything under control. Getting through the gift list, preparing holiday meals, battling the traffic, and just keeping up with the daily responsibilities can seem simultaneously exhausting and exciting.
When we feel our lives getting a little more hectic, our children sense it, too. They may be moodier, clingier, and less sociable. These are signs that your child needs to feel connected to you and is having a difficult time tagging along on the family’s holiday plans.
Here are some tips for parents to try to minimize the meltdowns that can happen during the holiday season:
1. Keep up with one-on-one time.
Try as much as possible to stick to your regular routine. Children thrive off of consistency and need that special time with you, especially during more chaotic times. At least 15 minutes of uninterrupted play is great for your relationship.
2. Visuals help.
Starting approximately a week or two prior to your guests’ arrival, talk to your child about them and show your child photos of your expected guests. If possible, engage your child in a video chat with upcoming visitors so they can become somewhat acquainted. Keep in mind that your child will be surprised to meet a person they only thought existed online.
3. Personal introductions are necessary.
Make sure to have time to introduce the family member/friend to your child. If you don’t have time, politely ask your guest to wait for your child to warm up to them. To avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, explain that this is typical of some children and that they are more likely to hit it off if the child feels in control of the situation and at ease with them. Advise them to respect your child’s personal space. Ask them not to rush up to your child to hug, kiss them, and shove gifts in his or her face. Instead, ask them to lower their face to your child’s eye level and greet him or her calmly. Your child is getting to know them and will need some time to develop trust.
4. PDA optional.
Do not force your child to kiss family members hello or goodbye. Respect your child’s initial desire for physical and emotional distance. Practice with your child proper greeting manners that do not entail giving hugs and kisses, unless conjured by them.
5. Watch your reactions.
Your child will feel more secure around a family member whom she has never met or has not seen in a while if you demonstrate care and ease with that person. If you seem flustered, anxious, angry, or stressed, your child will read those cues and act accordingly by ignoring or crying when that person comes near them.
Reviewed by Dr. Kristie Rivers, September 2020
- Holidays are hectic for everyone, especially for children who are not used to the added chaos.
- Stick to your normal routine as much as possible since children thrive on consistency.
- Teach your child how to greet relatives, and make sure family and friends are patient if your child is shy.