5 Musical Ways to Manage Holiday Meltdowns

A mom uses gentle rocking to comfort her toddler during a meltdown.

Ah, the holidays—a time of rest, joyous family gatherings, and the harmonious sound of…meltdowns.

The reality is that this season often adds stress to families, especially for its youngest members.

Different schedules, new places, travel times, rich foods, family photos, and general overstimulation affect everything from mealtime to bedtime, which can contribute to not-so-merry meltdowns.

While grownups have the ability to command self-control faster, the brain’s pre-frontal cortex (where this function is typically associated) is not fully developed until adulthood. Additionally, relaxation is a learned behavior, which is why trying to reason with a toddler during a tantrum doesn’t usually work.

So, in the midst of holiday chaos, it’s important to gently teach children how to relax. Music and movement are some of the best tools out there to help little ones reset, recoup, and get ready for the next event.

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FOL Fridays: Relaxation

Children learn many skills from adults, such as tying their shoes or reading a book.  They must also learn how to relax, self-calm, channel feelings, and focus.  With continued practice, persistence, and a little creativity, children learn not only how to relax, but also how to use this skill effectively every day, even in chaotic environments (Cox and Orlick 1996).  Relaxing together with a little soothing, gentle music in the background will go a long way towards helping your child find his own calm amid the busy chaos that can be our lives.

TIP:  Establish a Relaxation Ritual in your home, perhaps first-thing in the morning or just before bedtime.  Turn on some quiet music and just relax with your child – holding them if they’re small enough or just cuddling up beside each other if they’re too big for your lap.  Model being still and not talking, just breathing deeply and quietly enjoying one another’s company.  You might also want to sing a simple lullaby to your child at the end.  This will likely become a very treasured and much-anticipated time for you and your child(ren).

– Compiled by Theresa Case, M.Ed.  Theresa’s Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, is proudly among the top 1% of Kindermusik programs worldwide.