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Managing the Christmas Jitters

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson


It’s the week before Christmas and things may be falling apart at your house. The noise level may seem several decibels higher than usual. The children’s ability to pay attention and follow directions may seem at an all-time low. And they may seem to be annoying each other, melting down into tears, and getting on your nerves like never before.

No surprise: it’s the Christmas Jitters!

Once you realize that your children are wound up in anticipation of the big holiday and all that goes with it, it’s easier to cut them some slack. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

Filter behavior this week through the lens of the Jitters. Lower your standards just a bit. Increase your patience and sweetness. On December 26th things will be back to nearly normal.

Support behavior by keeping things as simple and stress-free as possible. Imagine that your children are each a year or two younger than their actual ages. Assume that none of them is able to cope with complexity right now or manage tasks without supervision.

Notice what you want to see and comment positively on it. It’s easy, when you have so much to do yourself right now, to harp on your children’s disappointing behavior and nag about their shortcomings. Try instead to tell them what they’re doing right. Remember that we always get what we focus on from our kids, so focus on what they’re doing right and you’ll see more of it.

Give kids things to do that will support feelings of being “grown up.” Give your children easy tasks to do that make them feel like contributors to the holiday fixings. Let them help wrap gifts, replace ornaments the cat knocks off, read to a younger sibling, or help with cooking and cleaning. Feeling responsible and useful will help your children behave better all day long.

Recognize that you also have the Christmas Jitters. The holiday time is exciting and stressful for adults too. You’ve got a lot going on, there’s a lot to check off the to-do list, and you’re a bit anxious, maybe, about how some of the things you’ve planned will go over. You also will feel better once the holiday is behind you, but right now work in some time to relax each day.

Keep the holiday merry and bright by smiling at the Christmas Jitters whenever you see them bounce around your house. Excitement is part of the fun!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.