Everybody loves Christmas, but nobody enjoys a Christmas meltdown. We’ve collated the best tips and ideas from our most accomplished nannies to bring you a Christmas gift you’ll love – a complete guide to avoiding Christmas temper tantrums.

Remember that family isn’t always fun

Children can often feel overwhelmed by the presence of relatives that they only see once a year or so. Increasingly we understand that forcing our children to hug and smile at people who are virtual strangers can also give them a very mixed message – that they have to get physical and be acquiescent to any adult who asks them to. So give your kids time away from big family gatherings, perhaps with your nanny if she’s around over this period, or with a temporary nanny if she’s taking holiday, and don’t necessarily insist that they kiss and cuddle with everybody who comes to the house. Instead let them perform a party piece, perhaps telling a joke or showing off some skill, that allows them to be appreciated without having to get too close, at least until they’re ready.

Be careful with the sugar

It can feel almost unavoidable – Christmas means sugar and the grown-ups are as prone to sugar highs (and lows) as their children. Instead of being the sugar meanie, try reducing everybody’s sugar intake by offering some sweet treats that aren’t so sugary. We’ve succeeded with a ‘Christmas tree’ made of kiwi fruit slices laid out in a triangle shape, with orange segments, blueberries and red grapes as decorations, and we love strawberry Santas.

Strawberry Santas

  • Fresh strawberries
  • Whipping cream
  • Dark chocolate vermicelli.

Cut the pointy end from each strawberry and set both cut edges down on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb the juice.

Whip the cream and put it in an icing bag or any plastic bag with a small corner cut off. Swirl some cream onto the ‘body’ and gently place the pointy end on top as a hat. Put a tiny dab of cream on top of the hat as a pompom and then add two vermicelli eyes.

Change the tempo

We all know that a little down time really helps, so planning this into every day can be invaluable. One of the best ways to do this, according to one of our most in-demand nanny candidates, is to use simple tools like sensory boxes to give children a chance to engage all their senses and sloooow dooown. For example a Christmas themed sensory box could include:

  • White rice to serve as snow
  • Christmas themed decorations such as small reindeer, unbreakable baubles and a wrapped peppermint cane each
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Jingle bells
  • Orange oil or vanilla essence.

Simply pour lots of cheap rice into a large tub, bury the jingle bells and peppermint canes so they can’t be seen, and then arrange the decorations and the cotton wool balls prettily on top. Drip a couple of drops of scented oil or essence onto the rice to create a pleasant aroma. Then turn the lights down a little, give each child a pair of kitchen tongs and let them dig around in the snow to find either bells or a sweet treat. Then they can design their own Christmas scene with the decorations, and even have a little ‘snowball fight’ with the cotton wool balls. By this time, your kids will be happily engaged with the process and all meltdown tendencies will have disappeared. One thing to be aware of is that sensory boxes work really well for stressed older children and even kids up to the age of nine will relax and engage with a play activity that’s much younger than their years when all their senses are engaged.

Finally – don’t get stressed yourself! Children are barometers of adult emotions and if you’re uptight, they are likely to react badly, so the more you can relax, the more likely you are to avoid Christmas tantrums in yourself, or your family.

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