Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Tips for Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns!

I have been guilty of daydreaming of the picture perfect Christmas morning. The kids in matching pajamas running to the tree with color coordinated presents on display underneath. In reality, the kids wake me up before the coffee pot even started to brew. Gifts are ripped open within 10-15 minutes and the kids are crying or at best whining while the adults try to go as fast as possible to open boxes, unstitch Barbies hair from the packaging, set up the new gaming system and try not to yell, “Can you just have some patience, I’m going as fast as I can.” By the time breakfast is over, someone is digging through the trash cans trying to find that missing piece for the Hotwheel’s Racetrack that accidentally got caught up in the mounds of boxes and gift wrap. This year I have a better plan.

Our ingenious friends over at Momastery recently posted their 2014 Holiday Gift Guide in November. I am one of those people that likes to celebrate autumn and US Thanksgiving, so I get a little grumpy when Christmas ideas and festivities start before December. However, I loved how she introduced her list on her Facebook:
We Meltons are generally not known for being AHEAD of the game. EXCEPT IN NOVEMBER. Our family rule is that all Holiday Gift Buying business is done by the end of November. Then we spend the month of December in peace, together, making memories instead of trips to the mall. Our minds are not full of to-do lists, so stress is low. And since we tell the kids that Santa stops taking gift requests at Thanksgiving, they are immune to the marketing onslaught in December. As a family, we have become able to spend the holidays focused on what we HAVE instead of what we WANT. And that, my friends, is the key to joy.
So, with that being said, and many parents to special needs kids needing to plan ahead and prepare are kids in advance, I have come up with some holiday tips I am going to implement this year!

1. It’s ok to take presents out of the box before wrapping. The What-If-I-Need-to-Return-It part of me screams at this idea, but consider the frustration that is bypassed by doing this. Remove the cellophane from the movies. Untie all the fasteners and tape holding the Transformer hostage in the box. Though many companies have gotten better at using “rage free packaging,” most still don’t meet the melting down child needing the toy NOW on Christmas morning.

2. Make sure you have enough of the correct size batteries. I know this seems like a no brainer, but with many stores closed on Christmas, you don’t want to have to tell your child they can’t play with the new remote control race car because you don’t have a size C-battery anywhere in the house. Also, for electronics, make sure you have all the correct cables and input slots available on the tv or computer if necessary. Nothing like realizing your new Xbox One comes with and HDMI cable and your TV’s one HDMI input is already being used.

3. If you are not technologically savvy, enlist the help of a teenager or friend who is. A friend of mine regularly pays her kids’ teenage babysitter to sit with her and set up the kids’ electronics. Again, here is a great time to open the box before you wrap it. If your child is lucky enough to get a tablet, have someone help set up the parental controls and download a few apps so it is ready to go as soon as the wrapping paper comes off.

4. Make sure electronics are charged before hand. No child is going to want to wait 4 hours for their new iPod to charge after they open it.

5. If one present is a new video game, open it and set it up as much as possible ahead of time. If your child does not know how the game or new console works, practice and become comfortable yourself. The one thing my son wants more than anything is a Disney Infinity. I just spent 20 minutes setting it up, downloading the update and figuring out how all the pieces work so that come Christmas morning, I’m ready to work with him. I’m considering it a dress rehearsal without him pestering and getting worked up while I’m trying to read directions.

6. Not all the presents have to be opened at once. For children that are overstimulated easily, spread gifts throughout the day. Come up with fun games. Perhaps Santa assigns a time on each gift to help those needing a visual schedule.

7. Number the presents so the last gift they open is the “big one.” There is always that one gift that we know our kids will drop everything and play with (hopefully) the rest of the day. If they open that one first, then everything else will pale in comparison.

8. For those kids needing routine and easily overstimulated, prepare them before hand as much as possible. Social Stories are a great resource. Go through who’s house you will be at, when presents will be open, what traditions the family will participate in, who will be there. The more prepared the child, often the more relaxed they will feel. Check our Top Apps to help make Social Stories for apps that may help.

9. If your child needs special accommodations, arrange them ahead of time. Most of us already know this, but family pressure and traditions can throw up some obstacles. My son has major food sensitivities. I let whoever we are eating with that I will bring his food. They will provide the place at the table, but I explain with plenty of notice that I will have his dinner packed.

10. Don’t stress if your child wants something others may deem “too young.” My almost seven year old still watches Disney Jr. He loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I’ve had friends that say he’s getting too old for those shows, but it makes him happy. If I can get him to play and engage in conversations by using Jake and Hook, then by golly I’m going to get him some figurines.

So those are some of my tips. It may not be a perfect holiday, but I’m going to try to find the joy and bypass as much stress as I can. Do you have any additional tips you would like to share? Comment bellow and let us all know what works for you.


Rachel H has almost finished her Christmas shopping and is planning to spend December baking, decorating and enjoying her family.

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