The holiday season is a special time for young children and their families. There are so many fun traditions and festive activities. There may also be more challenges for families- meltdowns, power struggles, and kids who are overly excited and out of their normal routine.
Developing brains may need a little extra support during the hustle and bustle of this season. Here are five ideas for supporting little ones and keeping things harmonious this holiday season:
Co-regulation. There is a lot about the holiday season that can dysregulating for young children- crowds, lights, noise, smells, music, and lots of novel experiences. If the environment is too much for your child, you can model calm for them and take breaks together if needed. Think about what works for your child and their brain- it could be cuddles, lion breaths, squeezes, jumping jacks, or pushing on a wall.
2. Use Visual Routines. Make a picture schedule by drawing out what you are going to do each day. Review it with your child so they know what to expect. Give them a chance to be involved in picking what goes on the schedule (or at least picking one activity!).
3. Give them choices. Grab the free resource on offering choices. Choices are the best way to invite cooperation this holiday season! Do you want to wear your red socks or your blue socks? Do you want green beans or potatoes on your plate? Do you want to give Grandpa a hug or a high five? If your child is still learning how to verbalize their choice, hold the objects in your hands or use gestures to help them make their choice in another way.
4. Let them help. Get kids involved by letting them help with cooking, wrapping presents, and getting ready to go. This helps children feel a sense of significance and is a great opportunity to fill their cup with quality time. Letting them help during activities that are pain points can be really beneficial. For example, if they have trouble watching others open presents, they could be the one to help pass the presents out!
5. Give them multiple opportunities each day to move their bodies! Get wiggles out by having a dance party before you go to a crowded holiday gathering or give them a chance to leave, take a break, and move around if they are in a setting where they can’t move freely.
Most importantly- keep expectations low! Children under the age of five are still learning how to be and as a society, we tend to expect things from young children that are not developmentally appropriate. Model the behavior you hope to see in them whether it’s being empathetic, using kind words, having a calm body, or saying “thank you” when they receive a present. They will learn these skills from watching you!
Wishing you a joyful holiday!
Laura Brown, MA, CCC-SLP
Certified Positive Discipline Instructor