The period of time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day seem to be endless days of food, family, friends and treasured memories. They can also be the busiest, most stressful times of the year too, especially when you have children bouncing off the walls with excitement.
I have four children in my house so I understand how crazy it can get. It seems like they develop an aversion to sleep so they don’t miss a thing! And with my oldest daughter, Jaimie’s, extreme sensory issues, we had to learn how to help her handle all the sights, sounds and changes of the holidays so she can enjoy the fun too. Here are a few times to help those little ones calm down a bit during these fun and exciting days:
Keep the routine. Children are creatures of habit so the most important thing to do is to keep their routine constant, even through the holidays. It means that no matter what happens throughout the day, they can count that bathtime, for example, will always be at the same time. And keeping bedtime constant makes getting back into the back-to-school routine easier after a long time off.
Have a box of calming activities. We have different boxes of activities our kids can delve into. One has different sorts of active activities, such as PlayDoh, cut and paste projects, and games (like Whack-A-Mole or Hungry Hippos). These help to release pent-up excitement or anxiety without making the situation worse. We have a box of paints, crayons, markers, and blank notebooks for quiet project where they can still interact. We also have a box of puzzles, bead projects and other crafts where they have to sit and concentrate all on their own.
Have a whole stack of crafts and projects on hand for every occasion and mood.
Do some family exercises. There are some fantastic videos out there to help young ones calm down. (Check out www.sensoryresources.com). And because they’re geared to sensory sensitive children, the focus is on calming or working out sensory overload in a positive way. What can be better to help soothe children during the most exciting time of the year than that?
Get outside. There are so many fun things to do outside in the wintertime: skating, sledding, making snow angels, getting food coloring and drawing pictures, making snowpeople…and the list goes on. Even my Jaimie likes to go out in the backyard and eat fistfuls of snow for fifteen or twenty minutes. Trudging through snow—even for just a little while—is good exercise, exerts energy, blows off steam and tires out even the strongest resister of sleep or naps.
Avoid unnecessary craziness. All this means is if you don’t need to take your tikes to the mall, or visit Aunt Petula whom you haven’t seen since you were a child or host the staff Christmas party, why put they kids through the stress? Many of us adults don’t even enjoy the insanity of holiday shopping or certain festivities so why would we subject our children to that?
The point is children have enough fun and crazy times over the holidays. Pick the visits, shopping trips or activities you enjoy most (or need to do) and cancel the rest.
Create a quiet place. Children need a place they can go to for their quiet time. Whether it’s a tiny pup tent in their room, a neat hideout in their closet or the corner of the couch he or she curls up in with their favorite book and stuffy, make sure they have one. When days get so busy they can’t calm down they need a place to escape to where they can bring themselves back to a serene mindset. Teaching children this now will help them understand later in life how important a certain amount of alone time is to their overall health and functioning.
These are some of the ways my family attempts to maintain a bit of normalcy throughout the busiest weeks of the year. After all, kids should be allowed to be kids and have fun but they also need calmness. It’s all about balance…and who doesn’t want that?