It’s about to happen. I know because I hear it from parents every year. The weather starts to change. November is coming to a close. Many people, kids included, have their eyes squarely on the holidays ahead. Then the behaviour starts to shift. Mornings become a bit more challenging. Bedtime becomes a landmine of power struggles and cooperation becomes even more elusive. Here’s a secret about stress you might not know- whether it is bad stress (too busy! too much to do! car won’t start!) or good stress (holidays coming!), our brains react the same way. Children’s behaviour tends to become more challenging under both “bad stress” and “good stress”. Here are some things that can help:
- Remember that expectations are everything. When we know that something is likely to happen, we need to adjust for it and respond accordingly. Knowing that everyone may be a bit more irritable or reactive means that we can take steps (like the ones below) to help things get back on track.
- Build in even more downtime. Yes, this can be tricky to manage around the holidays in particular. Be intentional about how you spend your time and what is absolutely necessary. If it’s not necessary or will compromise the downtime that you and your family need, don’t do it.
- Try to maintain family routines, including meal times, snacks, and sleep routines. Sleep tends to be one of the first things to go when schedules change and we often see the impact almost immediately in our children’s behaviour.
- Focus on the positives. Try to ramp up those positive behaviours by really paying attention to them and acknowledging them even more. Don’t wait for huge things. Embrace smaller moments such as emptying their backpacks right away, speaking kindly to their sibling, clearing their plates etc.
- Connect. Connect. Connect. Take time to fill your child’s “love cup” as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be a special Daddy/Daughter day. Small moments of connection are powerful. Put down your phone when your child is talking to you. Give them your undivided attention. Show them spontaneous affection in whatever way they enjoy most.
- Protect your own boundaries. What can you say “no” to in order to ensure you can show-up for yourself and your family in the ways described above?