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Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

Mostly, I’m talking about your kids, but I mean you, too. The two are often interrelated: Everyone’s stressed to the max with the impending joy, and your kids start coming unglued, and soon, you are, too. Holiday fun, indeed.

So here are some tips for how to break out of that cycle this holiday season.Actually, it’s not really tips – plural. It’s one MASSIVE tip that breaks down into sub-sections, but the key thing to remember is:


Often, meltdowns occur when people are trying to do too much in too little time, fraying everyone’s nerves. Sometimes, the “too much” is actually intended to be fun, and that’s when you realize, once again, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

A sad but true fact: Too much attempted merriment can just bring everyone down. For example, you realize that this holiday season, you’re completely over-scheduled, but you really want to throw in some seasonal fun. It’s a tradition, you say. We always do it in my family, you say.

So even though you know that everyone is maxed out, you go ahead and squeeze it in. Lo and behold, it’s not the joy you remember from your childhood. You’re determined to have fun, to make a memory, and that’s when your kids employ their special sixth sense. You want it to work out too badly, so your kids know to lose their crap. You might soon follow because WHY DO THEY HAVE TO RUIN SOMETHING SO SPECIAL AND SO PRECIOUS?

It’s because you knew better, and you did it anyway. Your instincts probably told you: This is just one thing too many, and you pushed it.

Now, this isn’t to say that you should never try to squeeze in something extra. But you need to be mentally prepared for the consequences. When your kids melt down, you have no right to be upset with them. You took the risk and hoped for a reward; if it doesn’t go that way, you need to accept the natural consequences.

This also applies to all the shopping, errands, and family obligations generated by the holidays. If you are trying to get everything done without regard for your kids’ needs or naps or proclivities, then you need to recognize the risk.

Be prepared for it to go badly, and to simply soldier through. You’ve pushed your kids past their limits, and they’re going to let you know it, perhaps loudly and humiliatingly. So you need to go into situations ready for that, or maybe armed (with extra snacks and an iPad, for example, but no weapons. This is a family blog.)

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Forewarned is forearmed. And whatever other platitudes fit the season.

Happy (almost) holidays!

Photo by goforchris

Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2016). Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2016
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