Visit for parenting workshops, parent coaching & children's activities!
Dec. 13, 2021

Episode 25: Avoid Christmas Meltdowns

Episode 25: Avoid Christmas Meltdowns

Tis’ the season for large family gatherings, twinkling lights, music, laughter, presents, an overabundance of food and more. In this episode, DJ shares her top tips on how to consider your child’s individual needs and their routine to keep them from becoming overstimulated this holiday.

Explaining to your children what is to come, like the fact that Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit for Christmas and will be taking over their bed until they leave, will help reduce anxiety and potential tantrums when the event actually occurs. Tune in to this episode to hear DJ discuss this more in depth and many other great tips to ensure your holiday stays tantrum and frenzy free!

New places, new people and new experiences often happen for our little ones around the Holiday season. All this newness and uncertainty of what is to come can cause anxiety that manifests in tummy aches, headaches or temper tantrums. Listen to this episode to hear DJ’s wisdom on circumventing this from happening.

Don’t miss this episode! Are you in tune with your child’s warning signs of overwhelm? DJ explains how to avoid the emotional explosions this Holiday season… and that it is okay to temporarily excuse yourself from gatherings to give your child the soothing, quiet, calm voiced time he needs with a familiar face to bring a sense of calm back to his world..

BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING, YOU’LL LEARN at least ten ways to help your child avoid overstimulation, overwhelm and ultimately a melt-down this Holiday season.

Do you have a great tip for soothing your child when they become overwhelmed? Please share it with us and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy

 Connect with the host:

DJ Stutz:





DJ Stutz  0:13  
You're listening to Episode 25 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. I'm your host, DJ Stutz. And Thanksgiving is behind us. And we are off toward the Christmas season, a time of joy and happiness, right? Well, as much as we love this season, it can also be very stressful with so much to do. And then so much to pay for. We work to provide special experiences, you know, for the kids along with the traditions that we love, no problem, right? Well, how often does all this work and in temper tantrums, and exhaustion, and then there's the kids, it brings a whole new meaning to the Nightmare Before Christmas. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

Before we get going, I want to tell you about our sponsor, Little Hearts Academy USA. So coaches are a common part of our society. And we use coaches to help us lose weight, to get in shape, to become better athletes to become better at our jobs, and the list goes on. So why don't I use a coach to help us with the most important job we will ever do? Raise strong, moral and independent kids. Little Hearts Academy offers one on one and group coaching. To help you create loving and lasting relationships with your children as you strengthen your family in a way that will impact generations, give me a call at 720-989-6475. And let us discuss the best way to make life better. And be sure to listen to the end of the episode for a post credit scene if you will, to get in on a special offer for those who linger longer. And if you enjoy today's episode, please leave me a rating and review. Just so you know, five stars is the appropriate number of stars. And I'd love to hear what you think about the episode. And I have one more little announcement before we get started. We have a brand new website set up just for the podcast. So if you go to You will be able to see all the episodes you'll be able to see what's coming up. And it makes it really easy for you to leave a review and a reading. So I hope you'll go there and give that a look. 

Christmas in my family was a huge affair with so many kids, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, often visiting or sometimes we would go up to Oregon to be with everyone. We went Carolyn and two parties and there was putting up decorations. There were some basic decorations that my mom put up that I still remember very clearly. And when we were at home in Los Angeles, we often went to the beach after opening presents and played touch football. My mom loved to cook and there was always a grand feast. And then as I raised my own kids, we had a huge gathering at our home on Christmas Eve. And usually, there was close to 50 people at our house, we would have my mom, a brother and a sister with their families. And we also had friends who just didn't have local family to spend the evening with, they would come to our house and everyone would bring a soup or bread to share. We would assign one family each year to be in charge of putting together our own little nativity for the evening. And then after that, we would have the epic talent show. And this has always brought laughter and tears. And it was always so special. And amid all of the joy and laughter, our young children could become overly stimulated, they get tired or hungry. And that would eventually be the tantrum at some point. And it was usually our clue that the evening was coming to an end. So this week, I am talking about 10 things that we can do for our kiddos to help them avoid those meltdowns. And next week, I'm going to give 10 ideas on things you can do to avoid your own health. So I hope you'll join me then. So realize that different children have different tolerance levels for changes in routine for noise, for surprises and let downs. And as you make plans, really think about the limits of each of your kids, and then plan realistically, be aware that changes in diet and routine will definitely lower your child's ability to deal with everything that's going on. So number two, with all of that in mind, work to keep to your regular routine as much as you can, and make sure your child is getting in their naps, and they get to bed at close to their usual time. And it may be a bit of a pain, but the payoff is going to be great. And if activities really make it impossible to keep to the routine, try to keep the changes to no more than one day in a row. So if you have an off day and you're busy, there's a big party or there's stuff going on, try to make sure then that next day, they do have that naptime. And some of those routines that they're used to, that's going to help you out quite a bit. Number three, give your kids a heads up for what's coming. Let them know that visitors are coming, and what you all will be doing with them. So if Grandma's going to be coming and grandpa, make sure that they're aware of that, if we're going to be changing up their sleeping arrangements to accommodate for all of the family that might be coming, make sure that they know ahead of time, so that you don't just bring it on them last minute. Sometimes that'll really set a child off, and then come up with a plan on what they can do if they are feeling overwhelmed. And talk to them about that. Hopefully throughout the year, when they do have these kinds of little meltdowns, that will happen from time to time, we're able to once it's over, talk to them about how their body felt when they were having that meltdown or that reaction. And then say maybe next time when you start feeling your tummy getting tight like that, or your head maybe is starting to hurt. There are different things that their kids will say, really, most often kids will say my tummy hurts when it's starting to amp them up. But then give them some things that they can do when they're feeling overwhelmed. So that maybe they have a place to go and get away from all the noise and activity, that can be a great help. You might even want to set up some favorite activities that they can do in their room, or in a special place. If they are away from home. That will be a comfort to them. It'll be something that's familiar and enjoyable. But it's also a way to escape from all the chaos that often comes with visitors. A visual schedule might be help as well. Just simple pictures to remind them of the expectations for their behaviors, and the new activities that are going to be going on with new people, places and experiences. So if you can have a picture of today, we are going to maybe go shopping. So you might have a picture of the mall or whatever it is that you're going off to. And we're going to go to lunch with someone so so you might have a picture of a restaurant. And then we're gonna go watch them, turn the lights on downtown. So you might have a picture of Christmas lights. I know a lot of families like to go driving around in the evening and look at the light displays. Whatever it is that you're going to do, if you can have pictures set up for that day. And so your kids know what's coming up and what's done. And then what's going to happen next, that really might help them. Number four, transitions can be really tricky. In fact, we find in our education environment, that

most difficult behaviors will occur during transitions where you're moving from one activity to another activity, especially if you have that high energy child. So let's say they're having to stop something that they love doing to come in and have dinner, they might be really engaged playing with cousins or friends that are close to their age. And now you're asking them to stop that and come in and eat. So you're gonna want to be sure that you're giving them time to set up. So you might say, Hey guys, dinners in five minutes. So I want you to know that we're going to be stopping in five minutes, we'll eat dinner and then maybe you can come back and finish whatever it is you're doing. If you want to set a timer for that reminder, when the timer goes off, that means you need to come in and we're going to have dinner and maybe they're busy doing something and new people arrive grandma and grandpa calm aunt Laura or whatever, they come and arrive, and now they've got to stop. Or maybe they're leaving, everything's been done, the holidays are over, and they're heading off, that's another transition time, that's going to be a little difficult. leaving to go somewhere, can be difficult as well, especially if they're not well rested. Or they're worn out, they had a big day, running around with all their cousins, and their friends. And now, we have to go somewhere. And I am exhausted, because I've been doing so much more than I usually do. And so really think about how we're going to address that and get them ready for that. Be aware that anytime your child has to change what he or she is doing, and move on to something else, you're going to want to make sure that you're setting them up to succeed, and so that they can get along the fewest tantrums possible. Number five, let's be aware of the warning signs that let you know that your child is becoming overwhelmed. And so if you really sit down and think about it, it might seem like it just came out of the blue. But most of the time it didn't. And your child will give you these little nuanced behaviors, or they might say something, there might be a look in their eyes, they might have a habit of trying to kind of self soothe. When they're trying to keep themselves calm. I have had little kids in my classes, that maybe they'll rub across their upper lip for comfort, they might play with their hair for comfort, you might see them grabbing a familiar blankie or animal that kind of soothes them. And they're trying to self medicate, as it were with repetitive behaviors are familiar things, know your child well enough to know those signs when they're getting ready. They're just getting overwhelmed with it all. And when you see these early signs, it's totally okay to just excuse yourself, and take some time with your child to avert that emotional explosion that might take place, you could go up to a quiet spot, read a story, or maybe go outside where they can run around for a bit in the fresh air. Be sure to just do something they enjoy. And ask them. Hey, what are you enjoying the most with the day? Who are you playing with? What was your favorite thing today? And kind of get them thinking about those positive moments, you might also just take some time to just sit and rock with them pat their back, scratch their head, that's always very well, I won't say always but 90% of the time. It's very soothing to the kids and it can help them. And then as they start calming down, you ask them if they are ready to return. And if they say no, say yeah, we can do five more minutes. If you need that's fine. And you can set the timer on your smartphone. Or maybe you have a smartwatch, and you can set a timer for that. And when it goes off, it's like, Oh, we've had our five minutes. Are you ready now. And generally, they will say, yeah, they're ready. But you've given that time to them, and you really averted a big issue. So number six is to remember to stay calm yourself. And very often, your child is feeding off the energy that you are putting out there. So if you see your child ramping up, just do a kind of a quick self check on how you are doing.

Maybe you're the one that needs to take a long breath. Maybe you need to sit and relax for a minute. Nobody cares if things aren't perfect, and everyone will enjoy you. And you will enjoy more yourself if you are calm. Another thing is that if your child is starting to ramp up, and you're all ramped up already, you're not going to calm them down. You're there, they're just going to feed off of that and get worse and worse and worse. Take that breath. Right and assess yourself, do I need to walk outside for a few minutes? As much as we try to make everything nice for everyone else that can be exhausting. And so just remember that it's okay for you to step away for a few minutes and see if it's not you. That's ramping up the kids in their energy levels. So number seven, just remember, it's not about you. And it's easy to get embarrassed when your child has a meltdown. But chances are you're going to be around your family and friends who love you and won't be judging you. And if they do judge you poop on them. Right? Whatever. They can do them. I always Say you do you and all to me, and you just do what you need to for your child. And it's really about the kids. So just take a breath, and take care of your child. And don't worry about everyone else, we've all been through it. And maybe people will try to help, sometimes their efforts to help are less productive than we would want them to be. And it's okay to say, yeah, he just kind of needs some quiet time with me. And generally, they will back off, sometimes you can have a parent or family member, you know, who thinks, Oh, I've got this, I can take it and you go do and they really are trying to help, it may feel like they are being judgey with you. But you know, assume best intentions, that's, I think, calmed down for me much better. When I quit trying to, well, I still try to quit it, it's hard to do it completely. And I am working on it. But when I try to assume that they're judging me, or that they're thinking I'm less than what I should be, I'm not up to their standards, whatever, you know, it doesn't matter. And the chances are, if they love you, they truly are trying to help. And they may not be doing it in the way that is the most productive, but just say, I appreciate your help, really, I've got this, and just go ahead and take off. But if they if they're gonna judge you, whatever. That's them, that's them. And you can do what's best for you and your kid. So number eight to think about is that after a tantrum is over, really think about what adjustments need to be made. Think about what brought this on? Were they tired or hungry? Was there just too much going on? Maybe they had been frightened by Santa's how many amazing pictures are there of kids just absolutely scared out of their wits on Santa's lap.

And we look back on that, and we laugh and think it's funny, but not the moment, it was really stressful for that little kiddo. And so think about, it's okay, if you're afraid of Santa, you don't need to go. We can look and wave and say hi, if you want. And if they get stressed even at that, we can just walk away. But realize that a lot of these new things that are going on can actually be really scary to the kids and even our younger ones, you know, when they're between one and three years old. Fear can kind of set in more strongly as they get older. They're like, Oh, wait, he's got presence. And they start understanding the whole genre of the season. And they realize, oh, wait, if it's kind of like Halloween, they may be shy to go up to the door. But as soon as they figure out, wait, I, I get candy, they get to figure it out. And they get up there and they get that candy, right? Well, it's the same thing with Christmas. So they may, as they're young, not make the connection with some of the fun things that are going on, and what they get out of it. But as they get older, once they hit about three or four, then they start to understand, oh, wait, if I go see Santa, this really cool thing happens if I go and do this party, I'm going to get some yummy food and maybe a present and all of these things. And so once they start figuring it out, the fear factor doesn't seem to kick in quite so much. But we really want to keep an eye on those 123 year olds, and pay attention to the signals that they're sending you about their stress level, especially when it comes to Santa. So number nine, remember that your child isn't doing this on purpose. And when our kids are little, they are responding to what's going on in their environment. The only way that they know how, and remember that they have been working on understanding their feelings for just a few years, maybe even you know less than that. And I know folks who are in their 40s and are still working on figuring out their feelings. And so you just want to kind of help them name their feelings. Let them feel their feelings. Don't ever tell them. Oh, you don't need to be afraid. Well, their body is telling them Yeah, I do. And we really want them to start trusting their gut and that emotion and if we start telling them what you're feeling isn't valid, then they start not trusting themselves and not trusting the people around them. If you are feeling like This is not a safe place for you right now let's go, let's do it. Don't try to talk them into things or push them into things that they're really fearful about, or they're overwhelmed with. So help them name their feelings, let them feel their feelings, and then maybe talk about better ways to handle their feelings as they start getting older. Again, when they're those little teeny guys, they're not gonna understand the words, they are only understanding what they're feeling in side. And they can't really put words to that they just know things aren't right. And even though we know that they are saved, they don't know that. And like I said, as they get older, we really want them to be intuitive to what their body and what their emotions are telling them about who they're with, where they are, what they're doing. And so then they can move forward in a more productive way. And then we have number 10, which is plan for some time, for some calm in the schedule. So this is for yourself, as well as your kiddos. And it's so important for all of you, it's easy for you to become frazzled. With so many things to do and expectations that we mostly put on ourselves. A lot of people don't really care if this one little thing wasn't done exactly right. gret. So let's plan for time for our kids to have some peace and quiet, to have some rest. And then plan for that for ourselves, put it in their calendar. So I talked a little bit earlier about having a visual schedule of what's going on for that day, you can also put in, this is naptime or quiet time. And we're just going to relax. And maybe if your child doesn't sleep, just stretch out on the couch and read a story, or watch a movie a Christmas movie that they might enjoy. But give them some time to relax their bodies, and relax their minds. And then they are going to be better able to continue on with the rest of the busyness of the day. And that works for moms and dads too. You know, the holidays can be a time of love and wonder. But it can also be a time of stress and exhaustion.

To be honest, and so it just all comes back to thinking about how you're going to set your child up to succeed. How are you going to set yourself up to succeed? Making plans ahead of time having something that you have in place for when things get a little too much you know what to do. You know your kids basically, you know what they're capable of, you know that they're set for X amount of time, and then they're done. So over the Thanksgiving, we took my grandson who is three, turning four, and all of us went bowling. And he did great that first hour. He had a blast and and he was figuring things out and doing things by himself. He wanted to carry the ball himself all of that. And it was really fun watching him. He made us laugh and touched our hearts when he was trying to be thoughtful, unkind, but then right about that our point is a little bit after the hour. Something clicked and he was done. And so as we were leaving, it was funny because we were talking about now we know how long he is good for bowling. He is great for an hour. And then once that hours done, we're done. He's done. We're done. And now it's fine for bowling anyway. But when you really think about these things, as you're making plans, what is my child's ability to stay at a party to walk around the streets and look at the lights or a nativity display? Maybe there's a party at the church, and maybe the party is hour and a half, two hours, but you know, your kid has a little bit of a one hour time limit, right? And so when his expiration time has hit, it's okay to leave and to plan accordingly so that you're not putting them and you threw that temper tantrum or that meltdown because it's really not so much as a temper of them trying to get even with you or whatever, it really is kind of a meltdown. And they don't have a ton of control over their bodies and their reactions, when they are these young young little guys, as they get older, we can expect more from them. And we can expect that they will last longer for a longer period of time. And if they're at a place where they have friends, then that's really going to expand it. Correct. But when they're little, they don't understand any of that. So know your child well enough to know, okay, I can give an hour for this time. Oh, here's this, they might last only a half an hour for that, as you make the plans. Keep all of that in mind. And so here's a bonus.

I know I said 10. But here's the bonus. I remember one year when we were living in Las Vegas, and we hadn't started our Christmas Eve parties. Well, actually, no, it was at the very beginning of us having our Christmas Eve parties. And they weren't nearly as big as they wound up being eventually. But I had this big plan and, and I wanted it to be special and religious and help the kids relate to the whole meaning of Christmas. And I went out into the desert and and I had this little manger for a display. And I put a doll in there. And I had a bright flashlight, and I set up the flashlight by the doll. So it shone up into the air. Well, we had everyone there. And at that point, it was just my sister and her family and my family. So we were just small in numbers. But I said okay, we're going to go out and we're going to look for the baby Jesus, we're gonna be like the Wiseman. So we all got packed up was chilly, we put our coats on. And we headed out into this desert that was about a block or so away from our house. And we're looking around for this light. And we finally find the baby Jesus and trying to get us all to sing. Well, they thought this was the most hysterical thing ever, what a dorky thing to do. And they want to spend the whole time just laughing at me. Sometimes we can have the best intentions, and it just failed miserably. And that was the case that year. We haven't done it since. But I will tell you that basically every year since then, it's been brought up. So you know, you may have plans and they don't work out and that's okay. It's okay. You just go with the roll and say that didn't work, we'll move on. But I know that it's disheartening. Sometimes when you really put your heart and soul into something and you really wish it went one way. But here's the deal. You can get really upset about it and ruin the evening for everyone. You can get your feelings hurt, and just ruin the evening for yourself. Or you can laugh it off and realize that this is going to be a story they're going to tell the road as it is with our flashlight baby Jesus, Wiseman's hunt. And so just keep in mind that as we keep going, with our Christmas times in our traditions, and all of the things that we love to do, just keep in mind that some are gonna work, and some are not. And you can talk about some things ahead of time. I know with my little search. It was a surprise, and I just threw it on everyone. And it just wasn't understood the same way that I had it planned. So think about that, as you move forward in getting things organized and ready for Christmas, that things might not always turn out the same way that you wanted them to. And that's fine. By implementing just a few small changes. Maybe it's in your attitude, maybe it's in your planning, maybe it's in your communication, you're going to be able to help your children, keep it all together. And you're going to know when and how to kind of shut things down and let them relax and get the rest that they need so that they don't feel so overwhelmed that they have those major meltdowns that we often see at Christmas time. But this is advice that can be taken also throughout the year. Any time you've got a change coming on. So maybe it's a visit from a friend or family member,

maybe you're going off on vacation, it could be a ton of different things. But these 10 suggestions can be translated and helpful throughout the year. This podcast is the product of Little Hearts Academy USA. And so check out our website at WWW dot Little Hearts Academy And sign up for my free newsletter. And you'll get insider information on the podcast, and some of the programs that we have available there. And if you enjoy the podcast, I really would love for you to post about it on your social media, tag me at imperfect heroes podcast on Instagram, or you can get me at Little Hearts Academy USA, on Facebook, we're continuing to grow. And I am now more than halfway to my goal of having listeners in all 50 states. And so the more you share, the more families we can reach. And I just wanted to once again remind you that the podcast has its own webpage now. So that is And Heroes is spelled H E R O E S, some people forget that E. So, include the E and you're gonna have a lot more information that you've had before. And again, I really encourage you to give us a rating and a review. Five stars is the appropriate number of stars. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on anything glow episode, or ideas for future episodes. Either way, I look forward to seeing you there. I always love to hear what stories my families have to share. I'd love to see you post a story or some pictures about your holiday traditions, and maybe even some stories and pictures about those meltdowns, and how things went. Those are actually kind of fun stories to share. And other parents really benefit from them like, Oh, I'm not the only one. This is terrific. So if you post those, be sure to tag me on Instagram or on Facebook. I'd love to see that. You can always just email me to my email is So in Episode 26, I will be continuing with the topic of Christmas meltdowns. But this time I'm talking about the grown up meltdowns. Tantrums aren't always limited to the kids. Learn what I mean by tuning into the next episode. And so until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Hey, linger longers. I'm so glad that you're hanging around. Last week with Matt Ballard. We talked about helping our kids with the spirit of giving rather than getting. And if your kids are contributing in some way this holiday season, whether it's a Pajama Drive at school, or just helping a brother or sister or singing carols, or going to a holiday party, I would love to hear about it. And so I challenge you to give a post on Little Hearts Academy USA, at Facebook, or on Instagram and tag me or you know, you could just even share at my email, which is of course And I would love to share some of those stories on an upcoming episode. And so if you want to be part of that, my linger longer is your the your might mainstay. You're the ones that really help out and keep things going. So I would love for you to share those with us. So enjoy your week. And I'm going to go now

Transcribed by