Have Yourself a Merry Little Toddler | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Have Yourself a Merry Little Toddler

Four tips to limit meltdowns

If jam-packed stores and the holiday hustle bring out your inner Grinch, imagine how your toddler will feel. Your agitation is sure to trickle down to your child. She may already be tired out from coping with schedule changes and new experiences—not to mention being expected to smile for photos, graciously open gifts on demand and self-entertain more than usual.

Add in a generous helping of sugar and excitement, and the results can be less than merry. Limit the meltdowns and help your toddler enjoy this special time in the following ways.

Relax Your Expectations

Who doesn't have that "ideal" holiday mapped out in her mind? Then there's the reality: your screaming child in the midst of the perfect family portrait, or the epic yank of hair that sends Pop-pop's toupee flying. Kids will be themselves, no matter who's around or how seamlessly we want one particular day to go.

While it's great to set clear rules, putting too much pressure on toddlers to act perfectly is sure to backfire. If he doesn't want to open Grandma's gift before she leaves, why not wait? As an alternative, you can make a video of it later and send it to her. And if he's too cranky for pictures, consider setting a date in the future to dress him up when he's in a better mood.

Take Time-Outs to Avoid Overstimulation

While parties are fun and exciting, they can also be overwhelming. When you sense your toddler spiraling downward, remove her from the situation and give her some quiet time. Signs of overstimulation include avoiding eye contact, escaping by hiding under tables, blankets, etc., and disobeying established rules. Depending on where you are, taking time away could mean spending some time in a quiet bedroom with a few toys, or taking a short ride in the car with a snack.

If this isn't enough and your toddler is in dire need of a nap or more down time, you've probably overscheduled the day or week. Take a look at your schedule and prioritize the activities that are most important. Let go of the rest. Your energetic, happy toddler will thank you for it.

Prepare Your Toddler in Advance

There are so many new experiences that come with the holidays. New home decorations, distant relatives and the concept of giving and receiving gifts are just a few things toddlers are expected to handle. If you know what your toddler struggles with, you can reduce his stress by preparing him in advance for anything new coming his way. For example, if you think transforming your house with holiday decorations will scare or throw off your child, introduce decorations early, a little at a time, instead of decorating it all in one day.

Help your child cope with holiday chaos, and you just may have yourself a merry little toddler this season.

If greeting a roomful of distant relatives will intimidate him, consider creating a photo album of all family members who will attend this year's party. Starting a few weeks before the celebration, go through the album every so often, naming both familiar and unfamiliar faces so that your toddler associates strangers with the relatives he knows well and loves. If he enjoys the album, he may want to bring it with him to the season's get-togethers.

 Before relatives attempt a greeting that will frighten your child, you can prepare them too. Let Aunt Bessie know her nephew is slow to warm up but would love to chat or play a little later (if you think he would).

Keep Rules and Routines in Place

While you can't change the time of your relative's 3 p.m. holiday lunch, your toddler will handle changes like this much better if you maintain as much of your daily structure and routines as possible. Sleeping and eating schedules will be thrown off, but provide consistency where you can. Offer the healthy snacks your toddler usually eats, and keep rules about treats the same as they are at home. If you're away for the holiday and always read three books before bed, bring them with you and keep up that routine. For young children especially, consistency is safe and comforting.

 Help your child cope with holiday chaos, and you just may have yourself a merry little toddler this season.

- Colleen Wright is a freelance writer and mom looking forward to a peaceful holiday. 

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