This month’s topic ‘Managing child behaviour problems in winter’ can translate into ‘Managing child behaviour at Christmas’.
Christmas, where celebrated, is often associated as a time of great joy, however, it can also be a time of great stress, for even the most resilient parents.
My four year old son is very excited about Christmas and it’s affecting his behaviour and sleeping patterns. How can I get him to calm down?
Christmas is an exciting time for most children. Presents, people, planned activities and changes to the home environment could be exciting for your son but lead to lower impulse control. Understanding the possible reasons behind your son’s excitement can help you manage his feelings and yours. Furthermore, numerous diversions at this time can result in less attention and structure from you to contain his excitement.
• Structure and plan for Christmas – Discuss with and involve your son with some of the activities.
• Keep some usual routines and have periods of uninterrupted time with him each day.
• Manage any expectations of staying up later, eating what he likes and playing noisy games.
Model calm behaviour:
• Notice what makes you overwhelmed and stressed. Create changes, focussing on keeping your energy levels up and remaining positive.
• Relaxing bedtime routines and relaxation strategies, including deep breathing, listening to gentle music and switching from an active to a quieter activity, can calm your son.
• Keep an eye on his food/drink intake as dietary changes can affect behaviour.
My three year old son hasn’t stopped talking about presents, he seems to want everything. How can I rein this in and still maintain his excitement?
Nowadays, children are exposed to an increasingly materialistic culture that focuses on acquiring objects and instant gratification. Your son probably sees lots of ‘fun’ toys and games on television, in shops and at his friend’s house.
Focus on the values you would like your son to develop. Going by the premise that ‘Christmas is about giving as well as receiving’, can guide your input:
• List and prioritise the presents that he wants – a photo list, using a mobile phone camera, can be created. This helps him to visually see what he is demanding.
• Write a letter to Santa, asking for at least 2 from his top 3/5 favourite gifts.
• Explain and emphasise the fun in giving to others, such as family, friends or those in greater need.
• Suggest home-made presents, such as biscuits or a Christmas picture. Involve your son in making and wrapping the presents.
• Organise activities around Christmas cards, decorations, music, food and the people you see, all of which can contribute to making Christmas exciting.
• If necessary, limit the amount of advertising your son is exposed to in the time leading up to and during Christmas.
Focus on value, appreciation and giving, amongst other things, to help your son and everyone have a happy and exciting Christmas!
This is going to be the first Christmas since my partner and I separated. Should I try to keep everything the same for the children, or do something different?
Keeping activities and routines at Christmas, similar to previous years, can give the children a sense of security and stability. But there are other aspects to consider:
• Listen to and incorporate in any planning, what the children want to do at Christmas.
• Recognise that there can be possible feelings of sadness for the non-resident parent and their family members, if involvement with the children has changed.
• If it is an amicable separation, communicate with your ex-partner about access and time with children over Christmas and gift buying.
• Avoid a ‘deep pockets competition’, whereby a battle with your ex-partner, over presents for the children, arises (particularly if there is still antagonism between yourselves).
• Minimise negative talk and plan how to manage any hard feelings about your ex-partner, especially in front of the children.
If possible, working together for the good of the children, can minimise the effects of the separation at Christmas.