After Holiday Meltdowns: Why They Happen and How to Help Your Child

I was waiting for it – the after holiday attitude from my son.

It didn’t happen right away like last year.

This year, it happened after we returned home from our Christmas break travels.

I was getting ready to take the laundry upstairs, and there he stood on the stairwell landing…swaying, anticipating, eager to tell me something.

“Mom, I really wanted a hot wheels track for Christmas and I didn’t get ANY!”

Two boys acting spoiled and annoyed and sticking out tongues.

For a minute, I stood there looking at him recalling the barrage of gifts from grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins – and of course, us, his dear parents.

Before I responded, he continued.

“And when are we going to get to visit the zoo? And what about LEGOLAND®? When am I going to get to do that??”

This is the hard part.

With kids, you will see examples like this show up all the time.

Over the holiday break, you take the kids to do fun things, gift them toys and clothes and books, and all around, try to create meaningful experiences. You show up baking cookies, wrapping presents, packing the suitcases, and cutting the itchy tags off sweaters. That’s what parents do.

And then the holiday break is over, and you’re met with grumpy emotions, an attitude that is NOT gratitude, and an overall annoyance with life. It’s the kids’ eyerolls and sighs that grind you.

They seem to want more, more, more.

And let’s not forget the dreaded, “Is that all?” meltdown.

You may wonder where you went wrong – why your child can’t be grateful for what they have?

There’s a reason kids go nuts after the holidays.

Their routines are seriously upended.

First comes Thanksgiving break, and before they know it, they get another jam-packed holiday break. Kids are experiencing the roller coaster of gifts, treats, late-nights, parties and more.

After the holidays, kids will absolutely regress emotionally.

They will act younger than their age and whine, cry, throw tantrums, act needy, moody and generally have a meltdown.

They will look and behave like there is a tornado in their brain.

Here’s the good news.

When kids are showing up at their worst, there are several important things happening:

1. You are their safe space.

When kids are acting their worst, YOU, mom and dad, are their safe place. YOU are the place they can come to with all of their eyerolls and sighs and complaints about “never getting to do anything!”

YOU, mom and dad, are the garbage truck collector of runaway emotions and the sounding board for finding a better way.

If kids can’t go to their parents when they are struggling most, then where else can they go?

2. You’re there to break the cycle.

It alway starts with us – the parents. Kids can’t even operate at the maturity level needed to break a behavior cycle, let alone do anything about it.

That’s why it’s so important when kids are struggling the most that you’re there to offer guidance in a way that they will listen.

What a child is actually saying to you when they are acting out is – “I’m struggling to handle this. Will you help me?”

Kids don’t have the communication skills to vocalize it in that way, but I guarantee you, they are wanting your help (even if they show it in the most unloving ways).

3. There’s a million ways to help kids turn it around.

Before you do anything, it’s really important to take your child at their word. Step into their world for a minute and walk around in it. Really SEE how things might be perceived from their perspective.

Then SAY WHAT YOU SEE® – where you say outloud what your child is thinking, feeling, doing and saying WITHOUT judgement, teaching or fixing. This does not mean that you agree or condone their behavior.

It simply means that you understand, and this part is so important to getting kids to open up to your guidance. Once kids feel heard and understood – they will start to listen to what you have to say.

Now you have something to work with, and you can start talking about better ways to handle their thoughts, as well as incorporating things like…

These are “set your laundry basket down” moments.

As I stood there looking at my son with a laundry basket on my hip, I knew this was one of those moments where I had to choose:

  1. Keep walking up the stairs and put away the clothes…
  2. OR put the basket down and have the important conversation that needed to be said.

These are the moments our kids need us to stop what we are doing, sit down, put an arm around their shoulder and listen to their overwhelm.

I listened intently as he shared…

How hard it was to say goodbye to friends and family,

How he wasn’t sure what to do with all the gifts he received,

How he felt all out of sorts.

At face value, it appeared to be an ungrateful attitude.

But when I dug deeper, I realized, it was simply a child looking at his mother, asking for a little bit of help.


Hey there! I’m Lauren, a Language of Listening® parent coach, and I help parents just like you take simple steps to help your kids want to listen AND become the amazing grown-ups they are meant to be. To get more awesome and insightful parenting ideas using Language of Listening, click the button below to get started.

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