Manage your children’s temperament for a harmonious holiday season

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Family preparation holiday food. Mother and daughter cooking cookies. (Photo: iStock - Choreograph)

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, marked by festive decorations, delicious food and cherished traditions. However, for parents, it also can be a time of stress and challenges, especially when addressing the temperament of their children. Understanding and managing children’s temperament during this time is crucial for a harmonious and enjoyable holiday season, said Hailey Burgher, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Temperament refers to the characteristics and traits that children are born with, which influence their emotional and behavioral responses to situations. Understanding your child’s temperament can be a valuable tool for parents during the holiday season,” said Burgher, who specializes in family wellbeing.

Primary temperament traits

Burgher noted several primary temperament traits that can affect how children respond to holiday activities.

Activity level: Children vary in their energy levels. Some are highly active and thrive on physical play, while others are more reserved and prefer quiet activities. The holiday season often involves a mix of both, from lively gatherings to cozy moments at home.

Sensitivity: Sensitive children may be more attuned to sensory stimuli, such as bright lights, loud music or the texture of certain foods. The sensory overload that often accompanies holiday celebrations can be overwhelming for these children.

Adaptability: Adaptability refers to a child’s ability to adjust to new situations and routines. Children with low adaptability may struggle with the disruptions to their usual schedules that often occur during the holidays.

Intensity: Intensity refers to the degree to which a child expresses emotions. Children with high intensity experience their emotions very deeply and they may experience these intense emotions both positively and negatively throughout holiday festivities.

Strategies for navigating temperament

Burgher offered some practical strategies for navigating temperament during the holiday season.

Recognize and accept individual differences. The first step in managing temperament during the holidays is to recognize and accept that each child is unique. Embrace the diversity of your children’s temperaments and avoid making comparisons. This acknowledgment sets the stage for more effective parenting.

Plan and communicate. Before the holiday season begins, involve your children in the planning process. Discuss which activities, traditions and gatherings are important to them. This open communication can help prepare them for the holiday.

Create a balance. Find a balance between high-energy and low-energy activities. Incorporate active play and downtime into your holiday schedule to accommodate children with varying activity levels. For instance, a morning spent decorating the house can be followed by a quiet afternoon of reading or watching a special movie.

Manage sensory overload. For children who are sensitive to sensory stimuli, consider their comfort and wellbeing during holiday events. Bring sensory-friendly toys or comfort items to help them regulate their emotions and reduce sensory overload. If possible, create a quiet space where they can retreat if needed.

“Understanding and managing your children’s temperament during the holiday season is essential for creating an enjoyable atmosphere for all. Recognize the unique temperament trait gifts of your children – and yourself – and try to modify your holiday plans to accommodate your families’ preferences and needs,” Burgher said.

By embracing differences in temperament and implementing practical strategies, parents can ensure that the holiday season is a time of happiness, love and cherished memories for the whole family, Burgher added.

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