BY HEATHER GUNTHER, MA, HealThroughPlay.com
You know the scene, a handful of people in the kitchen preparing the big feast, a group of people watching television or talking in the living room, and...the sudden shrill of "Mom! He hit me," coming from your fighting kids. This year doesn't have to be a replay of tantrums and fights from years past.
An acronym to help you and your kids make it through school vacation and the holidays is H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Each one of these four physical or emotional conditions, if not taken care of, can result in tantrums, power struggles and a rocky holiday.
Hungry: We all know how important it is to have regular nutritional meals. However, with holiday meals at unusual times and the excitement of shopping for presents, we can forget that a regular meal time is just as important as a regular bedtime. The other thing to take into consideration is your child's normal lunch time; it may be much earlier than you would think to prepare lunch. Let's agree, we can't expect an 8-year-old, let alone a 3-year-old to manage his emotions when he's hungry, when we get just as irritable when we forget to eat. So, regular meals are a must!
Angry: The next condition, anger, is a little bit more complex and the solution perhaps a bit more challenging. Here is the good news: there is nothing wrong with the feeling of anger! But, the challenge comes when our kids don't know how to express anger constructively. Your child needs you to guide him to a time out, self-reflection, and verbalizing a constructive request to move beyond his anger.
Tools for helping your child when he gets angry:
Help him take a time out to breathe and regain some control over the hormones coursing through his brain. Or, take a time in, when you both can sit together and breathe through the anger.
Get moving with physical activity such as walking, running, stomping or wiggling to discharge the tension running through his body.
Anger is always about some form of perceived helplessness or powerlessness. Help him by identifying a request that needs to be made, like asking his sister not to touch his new toy, even though he's not playing with it.
Lonely: Next in the H.A.L.T. acronym is Lonely, which refers to isolating oneself and the difficulty of reaching out. Sometimes, we don't know how to ask for what we need and we feel lonely. Creating family time to sit and reflect about our day, our wish-lists, and dreams for the New Year can create the community we all need.
Tired: The last of the H.A.L.T. acronym conditions is Tired, which is easy for your children to become when their days are packed with things like shopping, presents and late night family time that throw off their usual schedule. As much as they want to stay up late and sleep in during vacation, sticking toroutine is essential for their bodies, emotions and going back to school in January. Remember, as much as she want to go to Bobbi's house, then to the North Pole and then have a sleepover on the same day, it's just too much for them to handle.
Now you know H.A.L.T, an easily portable and very practical tool for helping your children manage their needs during Holidays, vacations and almost every day.