Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tips for banishing pre-holiday behavior problems

If you're spending this week with young children - your students, or your own children - then I'm sure you've taken a deep breath and prepared yourself for chaos and tantrums.  While some off the behavior problems you might encounter come with the season, others are a product of messed up routines, missed nap times, and too many sweet treats.  Those are the kind of problems that can be avoided with some careful preparation.


Here are a few tips that I've picked up along the way:

  1. Try to keep your routine as normal as possible.  If you can't schedule fun events into your normal routine, then prepare the children in advance for changes to the routine.  Talk about the fun events, but also talk about what the event will mean for your schedule. Will their nap time be later than normal? Will you have to eat lunch early or miss your morning snack? How will you help the children deal with these changes?
  2. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep.  When naps are missed, try to prepare for quiet afternoons or early bedtimes.  Time snuggling with a good book won't make up for a lost nap time, but it will give little bodies a few minutes to rest and relax enough to stave off that tantrum. Don't forget about your own sleep schedule, I know that I have a tendency to be short tempered when I don't get enough sleep. The holidays are stressful enough on their own, I don't need to add my own lack of sleep on top of it, and you shouldn't either. 
  3. Try to keep healthy snacks around.  I'm the first person to admit that the holidays are for indulging, especially in those treats that you only get to enjoy once a year.  I also don't fully believe that sugar impacts children's behaviors, but I do know that when I eat too much junk I feel miserable - and that makes me cranky. I can only imagine that this is true for little ones, except they don't have the coping skills or experience to know how to deal with it. This is why I'm a huge fan of the movement to create fun, holiday versions of healthy snacks.  Try to trade off, have some fresh fruit in the morning and a cookie in the afternoon.  If you're having a party try to have a good balance of healthy stuff and special treats. One of my favorite things about young children is that they are so much better at listening to their bodies than adults are. Preschoolers will often choose a healthier snack even when they are given the option of a cupcake or rice krispy treat.  
I'd love to know what strategies work for you, please share your tips in the comments!

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