Has your little one ever thrown a massive temper tantrum at a holiday family gathering that made you avoid Great Aunt Susie’s eyes? Were you sure you’d see disapproval on her face over your “inability” to control your child? I’ve been there! All three have had serious meltdowns – often at the same time! But there are ways we can stop tantrums in their tracks during the holidays! Or…at least avoid them.
Toddlers and the Holidays
Within the last 17 months of our two year old’s short lives, we’ve taken five out-of-state road trips. Each one has been over 9 hours each way. And we’ve stayed in hotels, relatives’ homes, etc. This means lots of pack ‘n plays (see our first packing list here), strange faces, few toys, and all kinds of new experiences.
I’m sure you know where I’m headed with this: we’ve experienced more than a few holiday-induced tantrums from over-tired and over-stimulated toddlers. These can be embarrassing, for sure. It can be easy to think that this is a direct reflection on you and your parenting. You can begin doubting your little angel’s sanity and looking for the nearest escape route. Relatives may whisper, watch you with eagle eyes, or (worse still?) offer unhelpful advice…or a cookie to your screaming toddler.
But it really helps to remember that they are, oftentimes, simply over-tired and over-stimulated. Keeping this in mind helps us to extend grace to them during a season that we usually find ourselves over-tired and over-stimulated!
Let’s take a look at some ways to stop tantrums during the holiday celebrations. And while tantrums will never be eliminated completely, there are certainly ways of helping young toddlers navigate these waters with fewer tears.
11 Ways to Stop Tantrums During the Holidays
- Keep Expectations Low. It’s easy to have a picture-perfect image in mind of how this day ought to go: perfect hair, shoes always on, no messes, no tears. But the reality is, someone’s shoes may be forgotten completely, outfits may be stained before leaving the house, hair doesn’t stay in place, and tears for toddlers are often…inevitable. Keeping your expectations low helps to be prepared for those moments, and thrilled when they go better than you’d thought!
- Pack Things to Do. If you’re heading to a relative’s home where toys are non-existent, be sure to take a “Mary Poppins” bag. Fill it with new (or forgotten) toys and activities. This is a must for long drives in the car, too! Rotate through the bag, one item at a time. Having someone else go through the “new” toys with your toddler will often extend their success rate!
- Nap ‘Em! For young babies, try to squeeze a nap into the day. It may seem like too much trouble to pack up the pack ‘n play, but when Baby is clearly ready for bed and dinner hasn’t even been served – you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to attempt a short nap. Just be sure to pack blankies, sound machines, or whatever else your child is used to for a good nap.
- Down Time. Try to plan some throughout the day. Even if that means just you and the toddler exploring Grandma’s room in peace and quiet. This will help your toddler re-charge with the familiarity of you.
- Zap the Sugar. Keep sugar intake to a minimum. Or, better yet, eliminate it altogether! This may mean you’ll need to pack your little one snacks that you know will keep her from also having to deal with sugar rushes and crashes. Don’t forget to keep your little one hydrated with water, too!
- Be a Safe Zone. Relatives and new places can be overwhelming. Let your lap be a safe zone for your little one(s). Invite them back to your lap for a little snack, a cuddle, etc.
- DVD Players. Enough said. We use ours only when we are on long road-trips. They come down during and after the trip. Period. (We use these while our three are extended rear-facing.) We pack educational DVDs like these. If you’re traveling to multiple family gatherings in short periods of time, this may be a way for your child to rest quietly.
- Plan an Early Bedtime. This may be a no-brainer – especially if the lure of gifts under the tree pulled your child out of bed at an hour you’d forgotten existed. If you’re visiting, don’t forget those things that help your child most!
- Relax. Relax your usual routine, requirements, etc. Enjoy the day. Children are going to get tired and act out. You can jump back into your schedule very soon. Ask yourself, “Is it worth the battle?” Many times, it just isn’t. Let it go and enjoy for the day (or two).
- Nurse. By all means, if your little one wants to nurse: go for it! Such a natural, God-given way to calm our little ones! If you need encouragement, click here. (I liked using this cover when I nursed mine one at a time while out.)
- Be Able to Laugh. At yourself. Ok, so this one may not directly help with your little one’s tantrums, but it could just keep you sane.
The holidays can be incredibly exciting. And our littles need our help in handling this excitement.
What have you found to help stop tantrums?