Surviving the Holidays

Ahh, the holidays. If there is ever a time to adjust your parenting and discipline style, it would be during the holidays . Believe it or not, Christmas time can be difficult for the out-of-the-box child. They are struggling with:

Overstimulation

Lack of sleep

Interrupted routines

Unfamiliar foods

Who wouldn’t be out of sync! Your best strategy as a parent is to recognize the triggers that affect your child and get back to basics wherever possible.

The entire month of December is VERY over stimulating!

At school, you child may be rehearsing for holiday programs, getting crafts ready for home, and cramming in any last minute testing. At home, you may be preoccupied with lists and shopping, cards and parties.

Any combination of these events can cause your child to fall apart academically, socially, or emotionally. They may display more aggressive behavior, become more emotional (clingy, weepy), or tank those school assessments.

A great strategy is to refocus on routines. . Routines give boundaries and limits. They let them know that everything is well.

While you can’t control the routine at school, you can make sure that your time at home is structured, calm, and soothing.

Yes, this may make you look like a control freak, but you’re not. You are providing structure for a period of time, and for the “protection in the storm.” The key to success is backing off at an appropriate time.

Take things one step at a time. Maintain as much routine as your schedule allows.

Food Can Affect Kids in Adverse Ways

There are so many treats and sweets during the holidays! And then there are the parties overflowing with rich foods. As adults we know the potential pitfalls of overindulging, but kids do not!

At our house, we also have to deal with food allergies and intolerances, so Christmas time usually involves a bout of intestinal issues due to unidentified food triggers.

Your best strategy for tackling this challenge is to keep food simple. . Focus on the basics of nutrition to avoid the pitfalls of a rich holiday diet.

When possible, keep your food groups clearly defined and the foods prepared simply. Skip things that are saucy, fried, dipped and slathered.

I know that the four food groups are out and the pyramid is in, but they are a great visual that you can see at any meal. When the family is out at either someone’s’ home or party, it is easier to find those foods.

If I have any doubts or concerns about the food being served at the party, I feed them before the party. Then, they are not ravenous, and usually are uninterested in what’s on the table.

Coping and Self-Soothing Skills Fly Out the Window

With so much going on, coping and soothing skills become greatly diminished!

Because the holidays are so chaotic, you may need to step in and provide some soothing strategies or suggestions. You may need to coach them on how to cope with all of this stimulation. And, you may need to help cut down on those activities that are sending them over the edge!

Don't take it personally. Dealing with the holidays is a struggle for your child, and you may be his or her safe person.

At our house, swinging is the activity of choice. If music is involved, it’s even better. On those afternoons when I can tell my daughter is losing it, I may put on her favorite play list and comment on how nice the weather is today.

If she wants to swing for an hour, I let her! She is so much calmer and relaxed when she comes back in. If it’s nasty outside, then I look for inside activities that tend to relax her.

Interestingly enough, if those indoor activities include watching television or playing the wii she will go into an almost trance-like state. It may seem like an oxymoron, but electronic things (which seem to be soothing) are very over stimulating to the brain and provoke an addictive quality in some children!

While this provides a moment of quiet, getting her out of it, disengaged, usually creates more problems than I started with. Soon, she wants to be electronically engaged AT ALL TIMES and it agitated when she is denied the opportunity. That does not bode well for a return to school.

Yes, she gets those times, but I have to monitor how much and for how long.

Rock-a-bye Baby...

The last trigger that can GREATLY affect your child’s ability to cope is lack of sleep! Now more than ever, your child needs that bedtime routine. Everyone needs 8-10 hours of sleep to function; especially children. It allows the brain to process, sort, and refresh itself for the next day.

Regardless of how late we are out, my daughter wakes up at 6:15 a.m. the next morning. Naps are a thing of the past, and she runs like the energizer bunny all day. And, let us not forget, that it takes a solid hour to wind down!

So, staying out until even 10:00 is impossible. I have to adjust my evening times to take into account how tired she is, and how long I expect it will take her to wind down.

To compensate, we are usually the first one’s there, and if asked, I request an earlier start time.

We live on the west coast, and have begun a tradition of hosting an "east coast style" New Year's Eve party. We have a great time, play with friends, and get to participate in the hoopla of New Year's Eve... and it ends at 9:00 at night!

The bottom line for us is that lack of sleep knocks everything else out of alignment. And, once again, if your child is unable to self-regulate their sleep times, then they need you to help ensure they get enough rest.

If you can help your child get a quality night’s sleep, you are way ahead of the game.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. It is a holiday full of unique and special opportunities that don’t happen at other times. It doesn’t have to bring out the Grinch in you or your child.