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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ways to Alleviate Stress During Special Events

Christmas really is a magical time of year. I love the twinkling lights, the pretty decorations and the lovely gifts. Oh, and I really love the Christmas cookies! It can be stressful though, rushing around town buying presents, wrapping, decorating, baking and taking your kids to visit Santa, not to mention the Christmas parties and gift swaps at work or school. Visiting family and friends can also be a stressful event, particularly if the home you’re visiting does not have children living there. Yikes! 

My kids are very active and very rough so I’m always concerned they will break something or get hurt when visiting or during a family function. Here are some ways I try to combat that:

Outdoor Playtime
Yes, I know it’s really cold right now but I do try to make sure the kiddos go out to play for a little bit before we leave. We’ll take a little walk or clear the snow off the porch.  Maybe hunt for a special rock or a pretty leaf to give to our host. Anything to get a tad bit of exercise!

Take Alongs
My son has a small backpack that we usually bring along that we fill with books and other smaller toys. It helps my children be less tempted to play with knick knacks or other household decorations at the gathering. We always bring 10 things so that I know how many items we’ll have to hunt for at the end of the event. I also put their blankets in the car, just in case they need a break time mid-event.

I’ve been visiting different family or friends and instead of sitting and enjoying the company, I’m chasing my children to make sure they don’t break anything. As I’ve matured in my parenting role, I’ve learned to ask the host if he or she could put certain items out of reach of my children. I’ll say something like “I’m sorry but my child really is enjoying playing with this beautiful bowl of potpourri but I’m afraid she’s going to break it. Is there any chance we could move it for a bit and maybe she’ll forget about it?” A gracious host should understand and move the object for you. 

We always discuss rules on our way to the event. We talk about items to play with (toys and books), running outside (not inside) and any other things that may bring about negative behavior. As soon as we arrive at the event, I pull my child aside and say, “See that corner right there? That will be your timeout spot, if I see you breaking our rules.” It’s important for children to know that they can still be disciplined even though they are at a special event. 

Decide on a reward beforehand and discuss it with your child. Reward them with something special if they have good behavior. Our rewards are typically fake tattoos, a piece of candy or extra story before bed. They serve as good reminders if you see that twinkle of mischief in your child’s eye.

Check in with your child periodically during the event. Don’t just turn them loose on another person’s home. This brings out bad behavior because your child will be curious and want to explore as well as test who is the actual authority (you or the host). Checking on your child will assure them you know what’s going on and they won’t act out to try to get your attention. A quick hug works wonders for us!

Saying Goodbye 
Know when your child is maxed out. Don’t stay out past their normal bedtime and try to make sure they’re eating on their regular schedule. A hungry, sleepy child is the perfect combination for a meltdown.

I hope these tricks will help you and your child enjoy the Christmas parties a little more this year. Of course, nothing is fail proof and we all have bad days. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

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