Preventing birthday party meltdowns in kids

Jul 10, 2010 at 3:05 p.m. ET

It's finally here! After waiting literally a year for it, your child's birthday is here. How excited is she? Did she even sleep last night? How early was she up this morning? Did you get any sleep? Follow our tips to prevent birthday party burnout in kids -- and in moms!

Mom and daughter at birthday

It's sweet, it's funny, it's fun - and it's exhausting. For all of you. A day that is all about your child - his or her birthday. A day built up so much in the media and in their minds that anything less than absolutely perfect will not do. And all of you still need to get through the day itself. You have some choices in how to cope with the day ahead - all while not throwing a wet rag over the basic spirit of the day.

Join the frenzy?

You can just join the excitement frenzy. You can express yout thrill at the meaning and planned events of the day. You likely are excited, after all. Birthdays are special days, both for your child and for you. It's not just your child's birthday, it's the commemoration of a special day in your life, too - and if it's your oldest child's birthday, it's the day you became a mother for the first time! No small thing! Be aware, though, that excitement is catching - and if your child is already excited (of course), adding in the energy of your excitement, or other family members excitement may result in a literal bouncing off the walls with pent up energy!

Or downplay?

You may, however, feel the need to try to infuse some calm and try to downplay some of the excitement. It's not that you're not excited, and you child shouldn't be excited, but there are still other parts of the day that need to happen, birthday or not. Maybe it's using deep breathing or other relaxation techniques (both for yourself and with your child) at regular intervals to bring the din down to a more acceptable level.

Have your child help

You can help focus your child's energy through the day by having them help with regular and special tasks. If there is a cake to be made, have your child help. If there is some extra picking up to be done, you child may be able to help with that, too. Make a list of what needs to happen before the birthday events happen, and go over it with your child, helping identify specific ways to contribute.

You can also ask your child for ideas of getting through the day. Exciting as it is, birthday can be a little stressful on some levels, too. Anticipation and expectation can be unsettling - and your child may welcome ways to focus and help and manage the expectation.

Burn off some energy

When you hear the phrase "bouncing off the walls," understand it can really happen. The emotional excitement of birthdays often manifests itself physically, and kid find it hard to contain their bodies. Without an appropriate physical outlet, kids may be literally bouncing off walls and banging into things, risking injury to themselves - or some inanimate object.

Finding a way for your child to release some of that physical energy can be a gift to both of you. Even if it's walk or bike ride through the neighborhood, a little physical exertion can get you both through the excitement of the day.

Birthdays are wonderful day, but for kids they are often not just one day. Being aware of this going into your child's birthday season can help you be aware of and manage a day that should be wonderful and special for both of you.

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