The Holiday Paradox

Holiday lights, celebrations, magical moments.

Fatigue, stress, and meltdowns.

How can such a special time of year bring out the worst in our children?  As parents well know, this holiday period can be filled with highs and lows in family life and in the minds and hearts of children.  For many children, the change in routine, late nights attending special events, and holiday travel can lead to over-stimulation, insufficient sleep, and emotional overload.  As parents, we see the net impact in tantrum behaviors.  Psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour offers the following strategies for how parents can effectively manage their children’s meltdowns.

Pause between each step to see if it worked. If not, move forward to next step.

  1. Listen without interrupting
  2. Offer sincere empathy
    a.“That stinks!”
    b. “I’m so sorry that happened.”
  3. Validate distress
    a. “You have every right to be mad/sad/upset.”
    b. “A good cry is the right thing right now.”
  4. Support coping
    a. “Is there anything I can do that won’t make this worse?”
    b. “Would some tea help?”
    c. “Want to cuddle the dog?”
  5. Express non-dismissive confidence
    a. “This is tough, and so are you.”
    b. “As hard as this feels right now, I do think that you’ll get through it.”
    c. “I’m so impressed by what you are able to manage.”
  6. Offer to help problem solve
    a. “Do you want my help trying to tackle this?”
    b. “Any ideas about what might work to make this better?”
  7. Divide problem into buckets of
    a. Things that can change.
    b. Things that can’t change.
  8. Brainstorm possible solutions to the things that can change
  9. Support acceptance of what cannot be changed.
    a. “There’s always some stuff we just have to live with.”
    b. “Let’s focus your energy where it can make a difference.”

During this holiday period, try using the above strategies to validate your children’s feelings, provide them with coping skills, and help bring peace back to your family life.