Avoiding Meltdowns in the Season of Peace and Joy

By Kristin B. Ford, Editorial Contributor

Parents eager to fill every minute between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day with festive activities should try to remember that children do not have the same stamina and attention spans as adults. Even if the activity is one that fully engages the child, it can become overwhelming when done for too long and can lead to outbursts and meltdowns.

To keep everyone in the family in the holiday spirit, three experts offer their tried-and-true techniques for avoiding meltdowns during the holidays.

Dr. Jannette Negron, pediatrician with Orlando Health Physician Associates

Be consistent. If your child knows what to expect, meltdowns are less likely.

Know your child’s limits. Try to avoid naptimes or other difficult times of the day when scheduling gatherings and activities.

Choose your battles. Allow your child to maintain some control by letting her make small choices.

Don’t forget the power of words. Use positive words to guide your child to where you are trying to get him, regardless of the circumstances. Children are more likely to respond with a meltdown when they are bombarded with negative words.

Take a break. Your child may act out if she senses you are frustrated or out of control.

Dr. Naina Mehta, pediatric behaviorist at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

Keep a balance. When family members are busy, it’s easy to forget the routine things in a child’s day, such as eating, sleeping and playing. If you know your little one’s schedule is going to be disrupted, be sure to bring his favorite toys to soothe him when a meltdown looms.

Get children involved. Giving a child a task to help with holiday preparations not only keeps her occupied, but also makes her feel important and included, and less likely to have a meltdown.

Take a deep breath. Distract your child from an impending meltdown by teaching a breathing technique. Deep yoga breathing is focused on belly breathing; show your child how to push the belly out as he inhales and pull the belly in as he exhales. This technique changes the child’s focus and helps him calm down.

Laugh together. Tell jokes, play games and be silly. Laughter really is the best medicine for avoiding a meltdown.

Reward good behavior. Instead of giving your child negative attention when she has a meltdown, share positive comments throughout the day. Everyone likes positive feedback.

Dr. Robert Middleton, pediatrician with Orlando Health Physician Associates

Spend time with your children before starting household chores. Children usually only require 10 to 15 minutes of your time before they move on to something else. Remember, they have not seen you all day and if you give them that short time, they will not fight for it later when you are trying to get things done.

Try to relieve your stress prior to dealing with theirs. Whatever your method is for quick stress relief, spend 5minutes doing it and then tackle whatever needs to be done.

Keep calm and try to understand what is causing the meltdown. Sometimes it may be a very simple fix, such as your child is tired and ready for a nap.

Set limits early in development. Children begin learned behaviors as early as 4 months.

Hold your ground and do not give in to demands. Once rewarded, children will do the same behavior again. Then it is the child who is teaching the parents instead of the other way around.

For more parenting advice, go to ArnoldPalmerHospital.com/Blog.