A holiday is usually a fun time for a family gathering.
Celebrations in many forms are special events we look forward to, yet they affect the routine and the harmonious structure of our daily life. It is important to keep in mind that holidays mean different things at different ages. Adults excitedly get busy with planning and preparations, whereas children are placed in situations where they have to face these events and are expected to show the most appropriate behavior.
In some situations, children exhibit unexpected reactions and a whole atmosphere of anxiety and distress fills the air. Why are children difficult to handle? What should parents do to prevent sudden change in temper?
And how should parents respond to these behaviors when they occur?
What is a meltdown or a tantrum?
Tantrums are a combination of inappropriate behaviors, including stubbornness, defiance, crying, screaming and sometimes aggression.
These meltdowns are characterized by the fast loss of emotional self-control.
And these behaviors are most embarrassing during holidays, since they happen in public or in front of the big family.
Why do meltdowns happen?
With all the excitement of the holiday, adults tend to be more permissive with their children. Parents would want their kids to enjoy the holiday as well and might accept them to do things that are usually not allowed. In addition, as the schedule gets busier, parents might try to use bribes to calm their kids down or to keep away the guilty feeling of not spending quality time with them. Surprisingly, our kids never fail to grab the opportunity to get things done their way.
In addition, children might have difficulty assimilating to the change in routine. They might feel off balanced or insecure, so when given a chance to misbehave, they will do it, just to get the attention they seek.
On the other hand, these tantrums may be the result of any kind of disappointment. If a minimal detail or any single displeasure prevails, children tend to outburst and show inappropriate reactions. Since children are not mature to manage their own emotions, they might struggle to handle the excitement level as well, and react in a silly or impractical way.
How do parents deal with such situation?
Ideally, being prepared and anticipating tantrums helps avoiding unexpected outbursts. Try implementing at least three of the following tips and observe the changes in both you and your kids.
• Reflect on previous holidays or similar situations. Think about past events when planning for the upcoming vacations. Try to remember where and when were the difficult situations faced and how they were handled.
• Prepare a small bag to keep the kids’ favorite games or activities in.
A backpack might include things like stickers, paper, pencils, crayons, small activity books, short books they can read, or word puzzles usually work well too. Take your children’s personality and age into consideration when choosing items. Save also some healthy snacks in the bag.
• Consider your children as partners in the planning. As much as possible, exchange opinions and ideas about the preparations. This way, they will be more aware of what to expect and they won’t be caught off guard. Offering some simple choices can release the tension and reduce tantrum potential.
In addition, explain what you expect of them during the celebration, occasion or activity. Delegate age appropriate task or job they can do to help out.
• Encourage them when they are good. It is very common that parents address their children to snap a remark. Let’s try to provide these comments for positive feedback (catch them being good and behaving).
Children have tendency to lose their temper when things don’t go their way, or when they get tired, hungry or bored. During vacations, their schedule is disturbed and their needs are not met at the usual time. If anticipation doesn’t work out, below are guidelines to handle tantrums when they occur:
• When the child is expressing his frustration, crying, screaming, bolting and yelling, it becomes useless to reason and reflect about the situation.
Communication is turned off. Parents who try to solve the situation by reasoning and explaining will only get angrier and more embarrassed, and the child’s temper will continue to escalate. Consequently, the best way to handle a freak out is to ignore it.
Ensure the child is safe first and then withhold the attention and wait until the crying stops.
• Parents, especially mothers, understand their kids more than others. They can guess the trigger of the tantrums and may try to make suggestions about the child’s needs.
• Distract the child from the current situation. Think of other games, stories or the toys prepared in the bag.
• The mantra to handle a tantrum is to keep calm – hide the frustration that is felt and react with quiet and gentle words. Establish eye contact and smoothly hug or touch the shoulder to reassure the frustrated child. At this point, the child might imitate the calmness and change his response.
• Another way to deal with misbehavior is by modifying the environment and changing the surrounding. The temper tantrum might be due to environmental factors, such as the crowd, the noise or the heat. Stepping out of the situation might calm the child down.
There is no way to completely avoid the meltdowns.
Disregard what the people looking at the scenery would think or judge. People think that bad parents have difficult children, while it is how parents deal with the tantrum that counts. When parents start freaking out in parallel with the child, that’s when those people start judging. Vacations are about having fun with each other – after a tantrum, move on and enjoy the moment. Once the child is calm and quiet, take a deep breath and plunge back into the holiday mood again!