How to avoid toddler tantrums at Christmas

Christmas can be a highly stressful time for families. Even adults feel overwhelmed at such a busy time of year, so it's not surprising that under fives can feel it too. Check out these tips from Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual on how to handle it when the inevitable festive meltdown happens.

The Christmas and New Year period is prime time for adult tantrums, let alone for the under fives. So don’t be surprised if you find your child is playing you up more than usual around now. We've all been there, and it's no slight to your parenting if your child kicks off at what is supposed to be a magical time. Aim to stay as calm as you can and hope that the rest of the family gets the hint.

Avoiding toddler tantrums in the Christmas holidays

  • Keep to your normal routine when you can, but don't beat yourself up about it if you can't
    At Christmas, your usual family schedule is all over the place, You may be travelling or staying with relatives or simply staying up later than normal. Many young children don’t react well to this much change, and being toddlers, will let you know about it. If you can keep to your usual routine of meal and nap times then do, as this will help your child know what to expect. But if it all does go a bit pear-shaped, don't blame yourself. 

  • Don’t let your toddler open all their Christmas presents at once 
    Many parents are keen on the ‘wow’ factor of a big pile of stuff, but for little kids this can be very overwhelming. Spread it out over a few days. Don’t be surprised if your child is less interested in the toy you paid a fortune for than the cardboard box it came in.

  • Anticipate tantrums before they happen
    If you know the Christmas meal is planned for naptime, or Granny’s house is full of breakables, plan ahead before this becomes a problem. Change the mealtime, feed your child earlier or do a swoop for toddler-unfriendly items. Plan a solution rather than complaining about the problem and you will be one step ahead of the game. 

  • Get your toddler outside at least once a day 
    Fresh air always helps, though it doesn't have to be you that administers it. If you have relatives staying and they look like they're about to go out, clamp your toddler to them with cries of “Jimmy just loves to look at the Christmas trees!”. Then when they’ve gone, sit down and have a mince pie and a glass of Baileys. I guarantee you'll all feel better after that. 

  • Don’t be a mummy martyr 
    Accept offers of help, and if they’re not forthcoming then ask. Don’t end up cooking the dinner and childminding whilst also wrapping a gazillion presents. You’ll end up having a tantrum of your own at that rate.

And if all else fails, remember that the Christmas season isn't that long, and nurseries and playgroups will be open in Janaury. Don't let a toddler tantrum ruin your Christmas when all in all it's a very small part of the whole picture. Focus on having fun rather than being perfect. In the long run, you'll remember the fun and laugh at the rest of it. Toddlers can be very sweet, loving and joyous individuals and given the chance they can help make Christmas as special as they are.

How’s your toddler enjoying the Christmas season so far? Do you have any tips to add? Come and tell us over on the Supernanny Facebook page.

You can find more help on dealing with toddler tantrums in the book Toddlers: An Instruction Manual, currently available in paperback and Kindle formats. 10% of proceeds go to the family support charity HomeStart.

Related links

Related Advice