“We’ve brought you here to enjoy yourself!”
I still remember my parents exclaiming in frustration, “We’ve brought you here to enjoy yourself!” No doubt I would have been mid-whinge about the travel, the activity, the snacks, or any number of things that weren’t meeting my expectations. Little did I understand that they were taking precious time away from the other priorities they had, to do something for me during the school holidays. I didn’t get it then, but as a parent myself, I definitely get it now!
We push other priorities aside in favour of family time during the holidays, trying to keep kids entertained and hoping to make some beautiful memories together. But, how often do best-laid plans go to waste in the face of an epic meltdown? Where did it all go so wrong? Our unmet expectations over how we wanted things to go, and how they actually went can lead to disappointment and frustration for everyone involved.
8 tips to avoid a meltdown
Here are a few ideas to smooth the road ahead as you embark on your school holiday trips and outings. It might not be foolproof, but with a little bit more awareness and preparedness, the quality time success rate can only go skyward.
Create predictability around new experiences – explain what you’ll be doing, when, who with and for how long. Stress and anxiety is caused by uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control. Whereas, predictability helps people feel safe and secure. Kids can feel more stressed or anxious when they break from the predictability of their normal daily routine. Their sense of overwhelm from this uncertainty can lead to emotional distress and meltdowns. Remember to make a point of giving them the predictability they need to feel secure.
Prepare to answer questions on repeat – Repeating questions is part of a healthy response as kids verify and validate information and check that you are engaged and responsive in your interactions with them. Your calm engagement is building trust, a sense of security, their sense of self-worth and developing their communication skills.
Let your child pack their own favourite things – Being able to choose and pack some of their own things helps kids feel engaged and included in the plans and gives them a sense of ownership and control over their experience.
Showing kids they are seen and heard calms the brainstem – When your child is having a meltdown, acknowledge and validate their emotional experience. This might sound like, “I can see you’re feeling really upset right now.” Regardless of the reason it’s happening, your child’s emotional experience is real for them. When you can empathise and validate the reality of their feelings, they feel seen and heard, which calms their brainstem and allows them to bounce back more easily.
Your child soaks up your energy when you’re relaxed and happy – Kids are always looking to you for cues about how they should be acting and feeling. The more you can let go of expectations, concerns and the endless to-do list, in favour of just being present to embrace what each moment with them brings, the more relaxed and happy you’ll all be.
Plan a little less to let kids move at their own pace – Kids live in a world where they have very little control over what they do or how they do it, especially when they get to school. They have to adhere to routines and activities that are largely not of their choosing. They move at a pace set for them, not by them. Give them space and opportunity to let them be the pace-setter for the day. Move at their pace, let them guide the activities. Child-led, adult-supported play builds many traits of resilience.
Wear clothes with pockets and fill them with snacks – Quite simply, hungry kids can be ‘hangry’ kids. Pack snacks ... many snacks. When you walk out the door with an extra muesli bar in your pocket, you’ll feel more powerful than McGyver with a multi-tool!
- Download our playlist to listen to in the car – set the vibe with some happy tunes and lose yourself at the traffic lights rocking out with your littles!
Whatever your plans are, big or small, we hope you can make some magic, make some memories and make the most of it!