Monday, November 28, 2011

Post-Holiday Trauma

Holiday.  The very word brings about numerous emotions and memories.  Hopefully, relaxation and a break from the everyday life are among the slightly more "stressful" of these thoughts.  Although, in the end, only the happy and joyful memories are the ones that stand the test of time.  Vacations and holiday celebrations give us a welcome respite from the humdrum day-to-day life.  If only the return to reality were not accompanied by the inevitable post-celebration shock.

While I love having a break from my work with children, coming back after a break, however brief, is never a piece of cake.  Well, if it's a piece of cake, it's a 10-layer marzipan masterpiece with chocolate flowers and tiny rosebuds.  Inevitably children consume too much sugar and not enough exercise over the course of a holiday.  Combine this with a lapse in the daily routine, and you create a recipe for potential disastrous effects.  No child willingly returns to their schoolwork and chores routine without a fight after they've experienced the freedom of festivity.  

How do you combat this reluctant tendency?  There are several methods, some more drastic than others.  If you have a large family, I'm sure the thought of ditching holidays altogether has crossed your mind at least once.  Surely the joyous occasion cannot outweigh the forthcoming disruptive and disobedient behavior of your children.  Do not despair!  Believe me, even if the kids transform into sugar terrors for a few days, the relative stress-less vacation and respite of the holiday is worth every peaceful second.  There are several less drastic options available.

1.  Pre-empt the sugar crash.  Everyone knows that kids love sugar - cakes, cookies, candy.  Every parent knows that an overload of sugar results in a burst of energy followed by a crash of behavior.  So why do we let the kids overdose anyways?  Because deep down, beneath all our firm resolution, we're suckers for the puppy dog eyes and the "pretty pretty please with a cherry on top" that kids know how to use so well.  Do yourself and your children a favor.  Steel your resolve.  I'm not advising cutting out the sugar completely.  It's a celebration, i.e. celebrate!  Let them have sweets.  Just make sure that you monitor it.  Don't let them simply eat candy all day.  Make sure they still get their fruits and vegetables.  And lots, and lots, and lots of exercise.  Burn off all that sugar energy.

2.  Remind yourself ahead of time.  You've most likely gone through several holidays with kids - either yours or as a child yourself.  You know the general cycle of events.  Dealing with post-holiday tantrums becomes a bit easier when you remember they're coming ahead of time.  You can prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for little Susie's tears and Sammy's disobedience before it happens.  If you keep in mind that some of this behavior may be caused by their recent relative freedom, you can be more understanding.  Not more lenient.  Just because they had a break does not mean they get to disrespect you and fool around.  But remembering the recent festivities can help tone down your surprise and aggravation with their present behavior.

3.  Experiment.  Try and figure out a good way to get back into your family routine with as little trauma as possible.  Some families find it easiest to simply plunge right back in without a second thought.  Others choose to ease into the normal schedule slowly, adding a few things each day.  Both methods offer genuine suggestions, but only you can truly decide what is best for your family.  If your kids don't adapt to change well, perhaps easing in and out of a holiday vs. stop-start-stop will work best.  On the other hand, if your kids can handle a complete break followed by a complete start-up, begin with a normal week immediately following your holiday celebrations.  Don't give up.  If at first you don't succeed, try again.  Keep working out the kinks until you find the perfect blend for your family.

It has been my experience that the first few days following a break of any type generally consist of shakiness and rebellion.  Unfortunately, this is more prevalent when the teacher (as in my case) has been absent for several days.  The previous authority is slightly undermined by the absence, and a few steps backwards are painfully taken.  When dealing with your own children, therefore, it should be relatively easy (in a manner of speaking) to discipline misdemeanors.  Your children still respect your authority completely and are aware of concrete consequences.  Whether they choose to be obedient or rebellious is an entirely different topic, but they are aware of the authority.  

All in all, holidays are wonderful things, although they should be taken with a grain of salt.  Don't lose yourself (and your family) in the festivities only to find a very nasty Monday morning waiting on the other side.  Enjoy the time of relaxation and pleasure in moderation.  At the end of the day, moderation is the key word.  In all things, moderation.  If you apply that to your life and that of your family, you'll be innumerable steps ahead of the world at large which will remain fumbling and stumbling along wondering why there are so many selfish, rebellious and disobedient children around as they continue to overdose on the sugar and instant gratification.  Good luck!

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