While this time of year comes with many wonderful events, it can also be an undeniably stressful time for many families. Here are a few tips to support an “environment for success” with your children during the holidays:
- Maintain as much routine as possible: Holiday breaks often mean big changes in schedules and routines, which results in things becoming much less predictable. This can often result in the child being more anxious, less able to tolerate frustration, changes in eating/sleeping patterns, as well as impacting a variety of other triggers that may result in challenging behaviors. At the very least, try to maintain a child’s standard bedtime and mealtime routines.
- Warn/prepare children for change: Of course it is unrealistic to think that every routine can be maintained at all times during the holidays. Preparing children ahead of time for things that are predictable can be a very effective way to minimize anxiety (theirs and yours) while improving their ability to tolerate change.
- Review rules ahead of time and be consistent in applying them: Whether you are hosting an event or being hosted, remind children of the rules and expectations before the chaos of company ensues. Describe the behaviors you expect to see (i.e. “share”, “follow directions”) rather than focusing on the “no/don’t” behaviors (i.e. “no running in the house”, “don’t yell”).
- Have a three-step plan in place: 1) “catch them being good” and reinforce those positive behaviors; 2) catch and redirect potential problems early; and 3) follow through with costs and/or escape plans when problems do arise. Make sure the overall plan follows this order of progression.
- Priceless doesn’t mean pricey!: Given the financial stress that this time of year places on many families, it’s always a good time to remind your kids about the long lasting value of shared time and relationships versus costly gifts.
- Maintain perspective: Don’t let the chaos of the holidays overpower the true meaning of this time of year. Embrace it, have fun and enjoy this time with your children and families!
By Dr. Brett Patterson, a psychologist and program director for Child Behavior Pathways (CBP), a program of The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. CBP is a CHOC Children’s and UC Irvine collaborative offering evidence-based classes for parents with children ages 0-5, who are looking for support managing impulsive and oppositional behaviors. Click here for more information on upcoming parent support services.
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