Magical holiday meltdown remedies for toddlers and preschoolers

by Julie Snyder

Meltdown remediesAh, the holidays! This time of year brings out the best in our kids. They anticipate the fun and exciting activities. Many have their "very good" halos pinned on hoping Santa will read his mail and leave a gift.

It also brings out the worst. Too many sweets, missed bedtimes events and packed schedules kick tantrums into high gear.

It's happens to all of us. That sweet tot transforms to a frantic thunderstorm. At this very minute, you may have turned to your laptop to escape a major tantrum-fest. It's great timing because we asked around and we put together a bag of tantrum busters.

Take a deep breath -- and maybe a stiff drink -- and head back in armed with our "magical holiday meltdown remedies!"

Diffuse holiday meltdown like magic

Limit candy and all adorable sweet treats

It's not the season for a perfect schedule or diet. Do your best to limit the sugar. When you know a sweet treat's on the horizon, offer a snack that will help balance your child's blood sugar.

Tip: Candy canes are mood killers. Hang them on the tree, don't offer them as bribes. Isn't it ironic that most of us give sugar when kids act up? We've found that you pay for that mistake later. Try tucking trinkets into your purse. Pull one out as a surprise.

Plan your shopping trips with your child in mind

Try to leave the kids at home or with a friend for those marathon trips to the mall. If they're coming alone, try to schedule the outing during their upbeat times, early in the day or after a nap. Pack snacks, water and toys to keep them entertained while you shop and stand in line.

Siphon off pent-up energy before it erupts

Is your child tired of being good around a crowd?
• Head out for a romp around the yard
• Bring your helper into the kitchen for a little one-on-one time
• Pull out the crafting box and get the kids busy

Get familiar with the family

Unless your child sees the extended family often, expect some hesitation. You can ask guests to approach your child slowly.

Tip: Pull out the photo album and play a game of
"remember." "Remember when we went to your aunt and uncle's house last summer and we build card houses? They're coming next week to visit."

Set clear limits on acting out

People's feelings have a way of just showing up, just like arms and legs. One of your jobs as a parent is to teach kids responsible ways to use their feelings. Redirect emotions and help your child express them.

Practice being grateful

You've probably seen a child open a present and then threw it while screaming, "I don't want this." Ouch! Teach your child to say thank you, even for a gift that they might not like. Role play opening silly or unexpected presents.

Tip: Practice with puppets or dolls. First have the doll or puppet open a present and say thank you. "Uncle Stan is smiling. He is happy." Have Kelly open a present and throw a tizzy fit. "Look at Uncle Stan. He's crying. He worked so hard picking out a present for Kelly. I wonder if she can do anything to help him feel better."

Dealing with a full scale holiday tantrum

Stay calm. Instead of losing your cool, and your senses, try taking a deep breath, smile at an understanding adult nearby, and then see if one of these tips will work.

✓ Distract: Put on some music, start a video or watch the birds out the window.
✓ Bribe: Offer a goal and a reward. If you play quietly until dinner, we'll read an extra book before bed.
✓ Keep your cool. Kids mirror your responses. Speak kindly and offer a calming hug.
✓ Remember they're just kids. As they get older, they'll control themselves better.

If these tips don't work, there's always chocolate -- for YOU, not them! Have you had a baby howl hysterically at Grandma or a child stomp off angry after opening a gift? How do you ward off meltdowns during holiday gathering?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.