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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
Holiday Meltdowns are Predictable and Important
Holiday time is approaching. Ramadan, Thanksgiving,
Kwanzaa, and Christmas create a time of year with lots of opportunities and
challenges. Here are a few thoughts to put in your back pocket as the
When any holiday or birthday rolls toward a family, it puts extra demands
and stress on the parents, and the children tend to become infected with
stress too. They get less relaxed time with us, and have more expectations
of "good behavior" put on them in stores, at homes they're not
with, and among people they may not know well. It's no wonder that
ride higher for us all!
Children tend to do the very best they can to cooperate and to flex. Then,
they hit "the wall." They can't go another moment without
feelings. These meltdowns often happen in public places, when the family
gathers, or at some other highly inconvenient time for you, the parent.
This is THE WAY THINGS ARE with all young children, not just with your young
children. It's almost a law of physics--a special event means that big
feelings will erupt in public. Either a sibling will touch a sacred toy,
a spill of juice will bring a huge cry, or who sits next to whom at
Thanksgiving will be the cause for a tantrum. It happens in EVERY family,
EVERY holiday, because it must. Children full of tension just have to let
it out. Their systems have this built-in "emotion ejection
especially for the moments when they just can't think any longer. When
they're done releasing the bad feelings, they can be reasonable, thoughtful,
and flexible again!
It helps immensely to be prepared. Just as you are in the habit of
preparing yourself for the quirks in your relatives' behavior, you can
prepare to handle your child's meltdown. When you see that things are
getting tense, you can move TOWARD the tension, instead of away from it.
(You set yourself up for disappointment every time you think, "maybe this
time, he'll calm down all by himself.") You can move TOWARD a tense
to play with him for 5 or 10 minutes before leaving for Grandma's, eliciting
as much laughter as you can (without tickling), so he feels more connected
to you, and regains his sense that life is good. Or you can gently
firmly set a limit if his behavior has already gone off-track. After you
set the limit, stay with him and gently assist him to release the upset
through crying or tantrums. Hold the limit and, at the same time, love the
child. What children need is simple. They need the chance to have
express the disappointment, do the tantrum, or laugh a good while. When
they're done, they can feel your love, notice the needs of the people around
them, and show their genius for loving and living life well. Their need to
cry is as wholesome as their need for sleep--it's one of the things that
keeps their minds in good working order. They're not crying to embarrass
manipulate, they're crying to offload bad feelings so they can feel better
again. The fact that the meltdown happens in public often means that life
has been going so fast in private that they couldn't find a way to catch
your attention there.
When others criticize (which is something you also can depend upon) you
don't need to buy into their worry or disapproval of you and your child.
You can think ahead of time about what you want to say. "Well, at
he's doing a good job of getting this out! We'll go into the back room so
you don't all have to hear about it." Or, "She's been needing me
to her all day!" Or, "This will be over in a little while.
Save some pie for us!"
We parents need to remember that we need some time to laugh hard and cry, too, when we're hemmed in by holiday expectations we can't possibly meet.
When you don't have a listener handy, it can work to play music that moves you, get time on the phone with a friend, or rent a movie you know lets you
cry. Your mind will release the tensions that pinch, no matter what way
you find to acknowledge that you need some meltdown time too.
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.