Holidays and Meltdowns: They Go Together Like Peanut Butter And Jelly
It's one of the phenomena you can set your clock by. Your child will have big feelings when there is a special holiday or birthday coming up! We parents wish the universe ran by rules a little easier on us than this one. But this is the way things work with children. It may help to know that every other family deals with this same phenomenon, and that, in a way, children are built to have big feelings on big occasions.
Why? There are several reasons that work together. First, when any holiday or birthday rolls toward a family, it puts extra demands and stress on the parents. The children tend to become infected with stress too. They get less relaxed time with their parents, and have more expectations of "good behavior" put on them in stores, at homes they're not familiar with, and among people they may not know well. And second, children's hopes soar around holiday time. They look forward to the extra attention, to extra fun, to special times. When hopes are high, children feel disappointments much more acutely. A third factor is that when many people gather to care about each other, it creates enough safety to allow feelings to bubble up!
Children cry only when they can't function any longer
Children tend to do the very best they can to cooperate and to flex. Then, they hit "the wall." They can't go another moment without exploding in feelings. These meltdowns often happen in public places, when the family gathers, or at some other highly inconvenient time for you, the parent. Either a sibling will touch a sacred toy, or a spill of juice will bring a huge cry, or who sits next to whom at Thanksgiving will be the cause for a tantrum. It happens in every family, every holiday, because it must.
Children full of tension simply have to let it out. Their systems have a built-in "emotion ejection system" designed especially for the moments when they just can't think any longer. When they're done releasing the bad feelings, they can be reasonable, thoughtful, and flexible again!
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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