Parenting Advice

How to Manage Changes in Routine (and other causes of stress) for children over Christmas

School holidays with children are wonderful, but there’s no shame in admitting that sometimes it can also be challenging. For some children, holidays can cause stress for a number of reasons including a change in their routine, more time spent with siblings, more free time/less structure to their days. For some children the flashing Christmas lights, change in food and all the excitement can be a bit too much.

So what can can you do to help? 

Parents are the experts when it comes to their own children and what works with one child doesn’t necessarily work with another. But here are a few things that I’ve found can help children over holiday periods:

  • Try to maintain existing routine/ establish new version of routine– Children often thrive on routine, they like to know what to expect from their day. If they are of school age, they will be used to their set routine of school and can often feel a bit lost during the holidays. Establishing/ maintaining a routine at home doesn’t have to be difficult- it can simply be pictures/words on a piece of paper to show the  Child the various different parts to their day such as getting dressed, breakfast followed by a trip out/play with toys etc. Discussing, planning and referring to their routine regularly throughout the day will help children to gain a sense of ownership and control over their routine.

  • Consistency – we’re all guilty of bending the rules once in a while, especially when the kids are off school. However, many children thrive on consistently. Keeping the boundaries and rules consistent is often beneficial and helps children to know where they stand, making them less likely to test them.
  • Fairness– Holidays often means spending a lot more time with siblings and inevitably issues such as fairness arise. This can be particularly difficult when children are of different ages. Trying to ensure things are fair between siblings is difficult but can avoid many fallings out. Encourage children to think about disagreements from other peoples point of view and get them to discuss if they think things are fair or not for others. Involving children in discussions on fairness can help them take more responsibility for it.

  • Special time– With the guests and family gatherings over the Christmas and other holiday periods it can be difficult to spend quality time individually with children. But carving out some special time with children is important to them. It doesn’t have to be a full day, or even half a day- but just a simple few minutes of reading a book before bed or playing a game can make a big difference to children’s emotional wellbeing. Why not choose some special books to read together or sit down and watch a special programme together on the TV.
  • Model good behaviour– we as parents often set the tone of day. I find if I’m stressed about something, my children’s behaviour is more difficult. If I argue, my children will argue. And if I’m positive and happy- so is everyone else! They can sense the atmosphere and tension and react to it accordingly. They also copy and learn from how we deal with situations. Remembering this and trying to model appropriate ways of dealing with stress can help children to develop their own strategies. It’s important to show children that we, as adults, can find situations difficult too- but try to use it as an opportunity to show them how to deal with it in a positive way. I do realise that this isn’t always possible and in these circumstances asking for support and help from others can help.
  • Fresh Air– Sounds ridiculous, but never underestimate the power of getting out of the house as a family for a quick blast of fresh air and walk round the block! Many a time this has helped me to deal with challenging days! Fresh air and exercise often works as a ‘reset button’ even on the most difficult of days.

What have you found works to help maintain calm over the holiday period?

42 replies »

  1. All good advice ! My two struggle even at 17. We always keep things low key, and the same – meeting up with the same people, going to the same places, no surprises.
    Fresh air is the key too! Did that today, and it was lovely.
    Hope you had a good Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the comment and for the follows, much appreciated. I think that can be key can’t it, no surprises and routine to allow them to feel in control and secure. Pleased you had a lovely day out in the fresh air! Thanks again

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really great tips here. I always try my best to stick to the routine in the holidays and when we are away as the kids really are so much more content when they know how the day is going to go. Fresh air is the best answer to turning a bad day around, I totally agree with you there xx #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes when you’re watching the clock to see how long it is before daddy (the Cavalry) return home. suggesting a walk to the post box, shop or just out to count how many animals we see invigorates the mood and children return refreshed. (Where we find that extra bit of energy to get coat, hats and boots on is beyond me). I loved your suggestion of making a wildlife scrapbook using ‘my memory tree’ and fall back on this quite often. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahhh! I am facing it..Its school holidays and my Toddlers is behaving weirdly. But I am not able to help much…full time working, 6+ months pregnant, hubby not in town..Ahhh! I am stressed. Some days, I break out. I accept they sense the mood and behave accordingly. #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely agree about fresh air. There’s nothing quite so restorative for my daughter than running around outside even for 10 minutes. Well, maybe a hot bath. When she was an infant and cranky, she would perk up immediately once she was in water. #blogstravaganza

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are really great tips. I’m a huge believer in routine and consistency, it really helps to keep things on an even keel. Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx


  7. My eldest son has always been big on routine and I definitely noticed he struggled a bit this Christmas. Partly with the sheer excitement of it all (he’s only 3!), but also I think with the routine being completely off kilter. I’m going to bear all of these in mind for next time – I think we do a lot of them already, but a reminder is always good. Fresh air is the absolute key for us – I find we all need to get outside at least once a day or we’re just really grumpy! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove


  8. I agree with you that keeping some sort of structure is key. I know how lost I start to feel during “Crimbo Limbo” and much as I love it I know that I’m desperate for normality by New Year. I think our kids are exactly the same! Getting outside was a life-saver for us too. We just about wore a trail around our estate with the scooters these holidays! Thanks for linking to #DreamTeam x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christmas I find a particularly stressful time of year where routines are broken in a massive way. Especially Christmas Day so we try to keep things relaxed on Boxing Day so the children can rest and do what they need to do.
    When their routine is disturbed they struggle. Like you say, getting outside is great. Especially for my little boy who hates being in the house anyway #ThatFridayLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  10. These are great pointers and I know that i’ll be using these to help Ben adapt with the twins arriving soon. Also having me at home all the time as lovely as it is, isnt his usual routine so will be an adjustment in itself!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes structure and routine are so important – it gives kids a feeling of security because they know how the day is going to pan out. I think getting outside is important too – I always feel more lethargic if I haven’t had some fresh air. But I think the biggest (and perhaps trickiest) thing that helps in our house, is finding some one-on-one time somewhere with each child. It can be hard because the house is busy and filled with people, but taking the time to really show attention to each child as an individual makes such a difference to their behaviour, I’ve found #sharingthebloglove


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