Handling Meltdown and Tantrums at Christmas

Toddler melt down image

Getting ready for the festive season can be so exciting for children. They may not be too aware of what it is all about, but they sense that the home they live in, is twinkling like stars, there’s a funny looking spiky green thing, which their mummy calls a Christmas Tree, covered in colourful balls and sparkles, and their keeps being a man mentioned, someone call Santa Claus.

They sense something is on the horizon. They are given a new toy, and if they are anything like my child, will throw it as soon as it is put into their hand.

We then say “No Henry, don’t chuck those toys, only balls we throw”, but then at Occupational Therapy he is given an activity where he is to throw little bean bags, so I can understand the confusion. However we have to be weary in case it is something heavier like a brick, as if it hits someone (such as another child) it could hurt them, so we are teaching him that we throw a plastic ball for example but not other items. Not only that, it also teaches him, when we tell him off for chucking his toys, that a toy is to be respected not thrown, and the toy must be played this way and we will then demonstrate.

He will then often have a tantrum, because we have taken the toy from his hand he was chucking. We do give him a warning first, before doing so, so he knows it is wrong and by carrying on his behaviour there is a consequence.

This in turn teaches them what is right and wrong. The important thing I have learned is the reaction you give. I have learned from Henry is that, sometimes he is throwing a toy for a certain reaction; Or having a tantrum, to get a reaction.

We will then give him a warning, to say “Stop or you will go to your room to cool down”. If he does continue we will follow our warning through, which is highly important, and we take him to his room to calm down. This does work.

The worst thing I have found to do, is to rant and rave yourself, as all it looks like is that you have now become the child having a tantrum too

With children I have found that the anger they show, through their tantrums is more to do with frustration rather than to be naughty. It is important to talk to them to encourage them to speak, even if they are like my son, have development delay in speaking. Our son usually gets angry because like with hitting and biting, he is usually trying to tell us something but we aren’t picking it up, so encouraging them to show you and tell you, is a good place to prevent tantrums and encourage their communication to you. The best thing to do is to:

  • Step back
  • Observe
  • Step in

Today when we were queuing to see Santa at Henry’s nursery, a little boy in front, got really frightened at seeing Santa Claus, and he wouldn’t go in to see him.

I can see why young babies and toddlers would be scared. They have no idea who this big fella with a red suit and white beard is, so some children will be weary.

What I have learned, is if they do get panicky and start to scream, is to encourage them to calm down, and tell them everything will be okay and Santa is a nice man who delivers the presents for them on Christmas Day.

Another idea to help a child who may be a bit frightened of Santa is to get another child to go in with them, aswell as yourself (the parent or grandparent), because if they see that their big sister for example is okay with Santa, it may help them more to see that there isn’t anything to be frightened about.

If they are completely hysterical, having a meltdown and it looks like nothing will console or convince them to see Santa, then I would take them out of the situation, but don’t fear about trying next year.

Many children aren’t aware of Christmas and what it really is all about until they are much older, at which they may be fine when they get older and they know more of who Santa Claus is.

If a child starts to get upset over a toy they want, but it isn’t in store, it’s sold out or it is beyond budget then I would again take then out of the situation. Take then back in once they have calmed down and get down to their level, and say “We will go to the toy shop, mummy or daddy isn’t able to buy you that present you saw today, but if you are good then we can choose something else”.

As Henry (my son) is not a fan of shopping and always makes a fuss when I look around the shops, I will find a good time like when he is at nursery or daddy is with me, to go and have a look.

Sometimes it is best to buy a toy when your children aren’t with you. They are not able to see all the choice and I would, if you are buying for similar aged children to try and buy them the same things if possible. It will save arguments later.

Children will often want what another child has, so if you buy them all the same thing, then they are less likely to have a tantrum.

Or as I have spoken in my Children’s Christmas Gift guide this year (see video below), is buy them a joint present like a game or puzzle that they can both do. This can help save money on the Christmas budget and encourage children to play together and share.

I would also encourage them to choose a gift for nanny or daddy for example, this will then teach them that Christmas isn’t just about receiving gifts but about giving too.

Make Christmas decorating or shopping into a game. Have your children see how many baubles they can put on the tree and time them. Or see how many toy cars they can spot, and give them a selection of 2 or 3 they can choose from. Never more than 2 or 3 as they can become overwhelmed.

Example you are in a toy shop and they have some Christmas money given to them and so you ask them to choose a toy.

A place to start is to say “here we are, you can choose one of these toys” and show them the toys by picking them up from the shelves to show them. If they fuss and want more than one, then explain make it into a story, that Santa sent the money and that on his instructions mummy is to offer you one of these toys, if you want another one then you will need to be good boy or girl again and perhaps Santa will send or let me buy it for you next year.

Get them to right a Wish List, and say “You may not be able to have all these on the list, but I will pass the list to Santa Claus and see what he can do”.

Never make promises that can’t be kept, if you do make promises always follow through with them, it is surprising what children remember, when you don’t.

Many thanks for reading,

Carrie X

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