It's hard for kids to be extra good during the holidays

TOTS TO TEENS

December 28, 1993|By Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D. | Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D.,Contributing Writers

Q: I'm almost glad Christmas is over! My 4-year-old just got naughtier and naughtier as the day approached, even though she knew Santa was coming. She even misbehaved in front of her grandparents. Why?

A: Holidays are difficult for children, especially holidays like Christmas which require a great deal of patient waiting and promise big rewards. Children begin to see signs of Christmas more than a month before it comes. The time seems to them to go very slowly. Often, as children get impatient, so do their parents who, because of the coming holiday, are busier than ever when at home, gone more than usual and expecting perfect behavior from children to make a good impression on friends and relatives. Schedules are disrupted, bedtimes late and nerves frayed. Adults tend to remember their childhoods and to think about their families and relationships. That is not always easy. On top of it all, many families travel for the holiday, so children are out of their own environment and having to live by unfamiliar rules.

Many parents resort to threats. You may have found yourself saying "You better be good or Santa won't come." If you did, we're certain it worked only for the briefest time.

As your daughter gets older, the waiting will be easier; and you will be able to talk with her more easily about what you both are feeling. Remembering her needs as a holiday approaches will always be a good idea. Avoid putting her into stressful situations without your support.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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