Between holiday parties, cookies, hot chocolate, family get-togethers, school festivities, and more, it can be a crazy time of year for both kids and adults.
Dr. Rebecca Jackson, Vice President of Programs and Outcomes and Board Certified Cognitive Specialist for Brain Balance, says that all of these changes can cause mood outbursts leading to meltdowns and tantrums.
“What we’re eating changes throughout the holidays,” said Dr. Jackson. “More sweet treats and sugar can have a huge impact on regulating our mood and behaviors. When kids have that crash they have a harder time doing what’s being asked of them.”
Here are 5 Tips Dr. Jackson recommends to help avoid child meltdowns and tantrums this holiday season:
- Learn your child’s signs and cues that things are beginning to escalate
Things such as flushed cheeks, a change in level of activity, shutting down, or becoming hyper, or becoming louder and more agitated are all signs of a meltdown in the making, according to Dr. Jackson.
- Change the environment to minimize chaos.
Once you recognize some of the signs and cues that your child is starting to get overwhelmed, Dr. Jackson says it’s best to remove your child from the situation.
“Think calm, cool, quiet. You can dim the lighting, turn off the TV or music, grab a cool washcloth to run down their back or get them some ice water to drink,” she said. “We want to activate the calming scenes—it’s something different to help reset the system.”
- Come UNDER your child’s noises NOT OVER!
Get quiet, not loud. While yelling may be your natural instinct, Dr. Jackson says it can send them into a meltdown faster.
“The more agitated you are, the more you trigger a flight or fight response,” she says. “Being quiet, calm, and soothing with a gentle touch can be helpful.”
4. Use fewer words, not more.
“When your child is on the brink of a meltdown, that is NOT the time for a life lesson or reasoning with them,” said Dr. Jackson.
Instead, she says the best thing to do is to either redirect their behavior—if dealing with a very young child—or, for older children, she recommends that expectations and consequences are set ahead of time and they are removed them from the situation when they become agitated.
- Engage large muscle groups in the body to help shift which parts of the brain are activated!
Dr. Jackson says one of the best things to do when a child is on the verge of a meltdown or tantrum is to get them into a situation where they can move.
“If you have the ability to go for a walk, spiking their heart rate will help reset their system,” she says.
If going outside isn’t an option, Dr. Jackson says to take the child to a different room or a hallway and have them do some jumping jacks—something mindless that will engage their muscles while helping reset their mood and emotions.
And if you’re looking for a way to be proactive and try to avoid meltdowns and tantrums from even arising, Dr. Jackson says it’s all about keeping consistency.
“Stay on track with nap schedules and bedtimes,” she says. “Know there’s a price to pay for loading up with sugar, skipping naps, and staying up late. Be mindful of their sleep, what they’re eating, and the type of environment they do well in. It sets the whole family up to have a more enjoyable day.”