Young children, when they are just old enough to realize what a birthday means, are adorable in the lead up to their birthdays. They are just so, so, so, so, so excited! Jumping out of their skin, can’t focus excited. They are also a total handful in this level of excitement.
The excitement, the anticipation – the complete lack of patience…it’s driven more than one mom batty! “Just calm down,” you might say, or, “Be patient!” But they can’t! They just physically and developmentally can’t! So they need you to help get them through the anticipation in the lead up to their very special day each year.
Understand the source
Do you remember when you were six and you were waiting for your birthday to get here? The last two weeks were an eternity! A bouncing off the walls eternity. Whether there was a party in the works, or just time with your family, it was a day all about you. The one day a year it was almost okay to be selfish. The one day most of us didn’t share, and we could plan (or try to plan) just what we wanted to do.
There was the excitement of the unknown. Would you get that toy you’d been hoping for? What would the cake taste like? Would you feel different the morning you wake up when you are seven? Different from how six felt the night before?
There was also anxiety. would it really live up to the expectation? What if you didn’t get that toy? What if your best friend gets sick and can’t come to your party?
Your child is feeling those same things. Much as we might like to control them for our own sanity, it’s a part of childhood.
Expectations and routines
As a parent, you likely find joy in your child’s joy, but you also need to manage expectations and behaviors in the lead up to the birthday. This doesn’t mean dampen your child’s spirit or excitement, but it does mean setting realistic expectations about the day. If your child’s birthday falls on a weekday, for example, don’t forget to mention that he or she still has to go to school that day.
Letting your child know small details about what he or she can expect on her birthday far in advance can help your child feel more comfortable in the anticipation. Keeping routines as even as possible in the lead up helps, too. Many kids feel comfort in routine and if a coming even offers the possibility off too much surprise, too much different, your child may feel additional stress – in addition to the excitement.
Staying even-keeled amid the excitement and anticipation can be hard for a parent, too. Your child’s excitement throws off what you expect from every day routine and adds an extra layer of management. You may be feeling stress in the planning yourself – and that contributes to the pre-birthday frenzy. Keeping routines and managing expectations is good for you, too, so you can stay even and calm in helping your child manage their excitement. Simply recognizing that this is happening can be enough to help you deal with it – but deep breaths or squeezing in a solo walk or an extra yoga class might help, too.
The lead up to birthdays is exciting and stressful for everyone in the family. Recognizing and understanding it can help all of you get through it and on to the main event: the birthday itself.?