Unruly kids, extended family? Top tips to de-stress Eid celebrations

Excited children, late nights and the clash of extended families will be filling many of us with more dread than delight

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale
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With Eid upon us, many mums and dads will be looking forward to getting some time off to spend with their little ones.

But not all of us will be feeling as enthusiastic about the forthcoming festivities.

Excited children, late nights and the clash of extended families will be filling many of us with more dread than delight.

But have no fear anxious parents, Devika Singh-Mankani is here with some advice to help the celebrations go more smoothly.

As the Chief Positive Psychologist at Fortes Education, Devika is used to dealing with children.

And she believes the key to helping kids stay calm is encouraging them to take more control over their behaviour.

She explains: “Children will be excited during the Eid holidays and wouldn't we like them to be? The question of taming this excitement comes when children are being disruptive, are at risk or are in any kind of danger to themselves or danger to another child. Excitement can be hard to curtail, especially in children so I recommend applying the IUI rule to help guide them. Help them to recognise these elements in their behaviour: I – Illegal, U- Unhealthy, I - Immoral. If the children are too young to think in terms of IUI, help them to "Tame their Tiger" by taking a few long breaths when you say the phrase to redirect them to a less excitable state or activity.

“It's a good idea to make it a point to have three conversations with children outlining expectations of unwanted behaviour and consequences of both wanted and unwanted behaviour. The first is prior to a gathering, the second is at the gathering with the other children present and the third is after the event to talk about how it went. Look for opportunities to praise specific behaviour and when pointing out unwanted behaviour make specific statements rather than general ones.”

With children only just returning to school after their summer break, many parents will be worried about disrupting their routine yet again.

Devika believes allowing children to go to bed a little later over the holidays is fine. But don’t let your routine go out of the window completely.

“Routines will change over the holidays but the extent of change will determine how quickly children, and the rest of the family, get back into the school routine,” she explains.

“The challenge with short holidays is that just as soon as the holiday routine sets in, its time to go back to a school routine. I always recommend the 90 minute rule for short holidays when it comes to bed time. When on holiday, allow about 90 minutes of flexibility when it comes to the time to wake up or go to sleep but be watchful not to exceed that.”

When it comes to holiday routines, mum of two Laura Pritchard has a crafty way of ensuring her children get to bed on time. Every Christmas she uses the same technique, and while it may involve gift wrapping, she says the serenity it brings is worth it!

She explains: “I wrap 24 books for advent and put them under the tree. They get an early treat each night opening a book and then getting them in bed is easier as they then get it read to them.”

While Laura insists she buys many of these books second hand to keep costs down, many of us like to splurge on our children for special occasions. And is this a good thing?

Devika adds: “Treats are nice but too much of a good thing can skew children's expectations and their satisfaction with treats as well. They will need more and more to get the same satisfaction.

“This psychological concept is known as the law of diminishing returns and it applies to adults as well. I would recommend that if you would like to offer your children something really special use this event as an opportunity to teach value based principles by talking about the following:.

1. Gratitude: Explain that these treats are reserved for special occasions and that they are privileges, not the norm.

2. Trust: Tell them you trust they can care for their treats and value them and that’s why you choose to give them these things or experiences.

3. Action: Help them connect with the joy of giving and give something away at the same time you receive something. This is transformative for children and it paves the way for great lifelong habits.”

If it’s not children but the thought of extended family descending on you over the break, that’s causing you concern, have no fear. Devika says anxiety isn’t always a bad thing: “Often it is just your mind and body working for you and telling you to pay attention to something that can pose a challenge or is dangerous. In this particular situation many hosts report the anxiety can come from two sources: Preparation and social harmony. The first one requires hosts to remember to delegate, delegate, delegate. People experience great satisfaction from helping others so give them the opportunity.

“The second oft reported source of anxiety comes from not knowing if the family gathering will be enjoyable and if it will lead to conflict, as in some families, large gatherings can sometimes come at a risk. Remember that we all carry our 'issues' in an invisible backpack and it's hard to control what comes out sometimes. Your best bet is to try to soothe any raging emotions in the moment and redirect them to talk after the holidays.”

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