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Minimizing Meltdowns

4 Tips To Reduce Tantrums & Tears Over Winter Break

Do you remember the feeling of pure bliss at the start of winter break when you were a child? Knowing you had a week or more off of school to do whatever you wanted felt like the greatest gift of the season! But now, as a parent of a Complex Learner, winter break might feel more like you’re facing an episode of Survivor with obstacles, challenges, and pitfalls, not to mention some high drama and disasters.

While time off from school provides kids with the opportunity to rest, unwind, and enjoy time with family and friends, the unstructured and unpredictable nature of this stretch of time, the late nights, the full itinerary of activities, and the endless sugary snacks can wreak havoc upon your child.

What was supposed to be an enjoyable vacation turns into yelling, tears, and meltdowns, and leads to you counting down the days until the kids are back in school, or hoping you’ll be voted off the island. Don’t panic, there are ways you can help avoid meltdowns and get back to the good stuff – like family fun and a chance to recharge for the new year. This winter break, try our tips to avoid vacation meltdowns!

Stick To A Routine

It can be tempting to want to bend the rules during winter vacation. A break from school is meant to be relaxing and fun, right? So why shouldn’t you let your child stay up past his bedtime or sleep in late? Simply put – because Complex Learners thrive on routine.

As much as your child might beg you to let her watch one more episode, it’s always for the best when you stick to a normal routine whenever you can. This helps ensure your child not only knows what to expect but is also getting enough sleep to help him manage his emotions and reactions.

The same advice goes for meals. Who wants broccoli when there are endless sugary treats and mindless snacking! You know your child best! If you normally see improved focus and attention with 3 full meals a day instead of endless grazing, you need to stick to the plan. If your child does okay with a cookie or two but gets cranky, jumpy or even sluggish after the third candy bar, create a rule for sweets and stick to it. Enforcing routines during vacation may feel sour, but the results of a happier, well-rested child will be sweet!

Make time for the two M’s

No, not the hard-shell covered candies! We’re talking about Movement and Mindfulness!

Movement helps your child get out excess energy and get his body and mind ready to focus and process. Find ways for your child to move each and every day. Maybe it’s taking a family stroll instead of popping in a movie or taking turns pulling each other on a sled outside. Even when the weather is frightful, there are still plenty of ways for your child to move indoors – try one of our recommended indoor winter activities!

Mindfulness provides your child with the tools she needs to calm down and reset. Mindfulness activities can be used daily as a way to relax before bedtime or even as a way to calm down when your child needs to take a break to prevent a meltdown. Empower your child to try different mindfulness activities and practice his favorite ones! Check out our past blog post about introducing mindfulness to your child!

Be Realistic

If your child can’t handle a day filled with running errands, dinner at a fancy restaurant, and sitting through a 2-hour holiday show on their best day – you can’t expect her to be able to handle this during the holiday season. You may be tempted to accept every invitation or try to plan an endless slew of events to keep your child busy and entertained but realistically this kind of schedule might derail your child.

When looking at your plans for the weeks, separate out your “can’t miss” events or activities and put these on your calendar first. This can help you spot days that will be particularly taxing on your child and plan ahead on how to adapt. Maybe, it’s a family tradition to spend New Year’s Eve at Aunt Susan’s house. But with a later than usual bedtime and difficult social expectations all night, your child will be wiped the next day. Waking the family up early on New Year’s Day to go have breakfast with the grandparents is not the best idea. Try a low key day at home to reset!

Stay Calm

Whether you’re managing the family calendar or wrangling with your child at bedtime– one of the best things you can do in any situation, and all during winter break, is stay calm.

But this means you have to take some time for your own rest and relaxation! It might sound impossible, but find what works for you and your schedule. Even if it’s running to grab coffee with a neighbor or squeezing in a morning workout – when you are able to find time to focus on yourself, you’re setting yourself up to be able to handle whatever this winter break throws your way!

It’s easy to dread winter break when you fear there’s nothing but meltdowns and fights on the horizon. But school vacation doesn’t have to mean you just count down the days until it’s over. With some patience and plans, you and your child can have a vacation that gives both of you wonderful memories, not meltdowns.

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