Later bedtimes, tons of new toys and massive doses of sugar can trigger less-than-lovely behaviour. Early childhood consultant Julie Romanowski offers these tips.
1. Get your kids to fall asleep on Christmas Eve
Let them know what will be happening and validate their excitement. It’s a legitimate feeling—and it’s been building for weeks. Don’t ruin it by getting angry with them. Avoid empty threats. There’s no need to say “there are no gifts tomorrow.” Use a firm but friendly approach. They will test you or try to bargain. You need to be solid. Going to bed is non-negotiable.
2. Ward off a tantrum
When you’re in the thick of things, it can be very difficult. Acknowledge what the child is experiencing (whether they’re tired, hungry, overstimulated) but then follow through with whatever the boundary is. Maybe say, “I know it’s fun to run around with your cousins, but safety come first.” If they’re in a full-blown tantrum, take them to a quiet room until they calm down.
3. Adjust your rules accordingly
The holidays throw off normal routines, whether it’s what time they go to bed or the amount of screen time or sugar they’re allowed. Talk to your kids pre-season. Show them a calendar, and put a star on each day that you have an event. You’re giving them a heads-up that this is an exception. When you go to Auntie’s house, she has pop, but it’s not going to be like this all the time.
4. Avoid the “say thank you” prompt
Children are sponges. From a young age, you have to show them the attitude of gratitude. Take the lead on that and say: “Grandma worked really hard to come up with this gift. Let’s take a picture to send to her to show her how much it means to us.” When we do it, we’re teaching it. Just do it and do it joyfully. They absorb it.
5. Burn off a sugar high
Whether you decide to put a movie on or send them into the backyard, the key is to plan it in advance. The worst thing is trying to reason with a bunch of kids on a sugar high. When your kid is in a chaotic state, they have no logic.
6. Survive the never-ending celebrations
If you have a blended family and everyone wants to see you on Christmas Day, try to stay put and have them come to you. Or, if you decide to go to four houses in one day, plan for a gong show. Bring games and entertainment for the car. Validate your kids throughout the day and acknowledge their feelings. Bring items of comfort and security. Those things might not erase bad behaviour, but they will at least put things in a different perspective.