Ways to Support a child’s emotions at Christmas Time

When you talk about Christmas to the child in your care, do you see glee and excitement in their face? Are they happy, laughing or smiling? Do they tell you about the fond memories they have of Christmas’s they have had in the past? Or, does the child in your care look sad, frightened or confused? Do they suddenly get angry or enraged? Or do they simply run away from the conversation?

Christmas day can be a hive of busy people, high emotions, unknown traditions and much more activity than usual. The child in your care may have emotions that are bubbling to the surface. There are some things that you can do to help the child regulate their emotions.

Supporting a child through this busy time requires the adults around the child to be regulated. Are our own emotions regulated?  Are we calm? Do we feel as though we can engage in a conversation with our child? Or are we feeling defensive? It is important to accept the how and what the child is feeling – (whether he/she is happy, excited, scared, confused or something else), it lets the child know that their ‘big feeling’ has been understood by you and that it is okay to feel that way. You could say something like “I can see you are really scared right now.  It must be frightening not knowing some of the people who have come round to our house for Christmas lunch”.

If your child has become angry, using “I wonder” statements can not only help identify what it is that has made them so angry, but it will also help THEM think about what has made them angry (although sometimes they may not even know).  If the child is past the point of talking to you, within earshot of them, you could talk to the cat, the dog or someone else in the room by saying things like “I wonder if [name] is angry because there are new people who have come round to our house for Christmas lunch who they don’t know. I wonder if it is a bit scary for them”.

How did the conversation go?  Were you able to remain calm with your emotions staying regulated?  Or did you get defensive? Perhaps you got a bit mad at the way your child spoke to you?  It’s OK! Nobody is perfect and nobody gets it right 100% of the time.  BUT be sure to repair the relationship.  If there has been a slight rift to the relationship, you as the adult need to repair that rift so that your child knows that you are still there, you still care, and that the relationship between you and them is still intact. They need to know that they are loved unconditionally.

And at the end of the day, when your emotions and energy cup are running low, remember to take a breath. Sit down, put your feet up, do something that relaxes you.  You can only give as much of yourself as you have to give.  Take time to refill that cup of energy, as tomorrow, you will again give all of you that you have to give, and that is what makes you a wonderful caregiver.


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