Helping Preschoolers Cope with Post-Holiday Letdown -- Preventing Nightmares After Christmas

Written by Amanda Rock for About.com Preschoolers

Publication Date: 
December 28, 2014

My 5-year-old daughter had a fabulous holiday season. Besides getting just about everything she asked for on her list to Santa, the days leading up to Christmas were spent in preschool paradise -- parties, Christmas caroling, visiting relatives, lots of sweets, opening presents, putting up decorations -- the list goes on and on. For her, the month of December was one big celebration and she was the guest of honor.

But then December 26 arrived.

My actions were harmless enough -- so I thought. As my kids happily and quietly played with their new gifts, I started cleaning up from the festivities of the days before, packing up some dishes, and putting some decorations away. As I continued my tasks, I didn't realize my daughter was watching. Soon, she started to cry. As I tended to her and asked her what was wrong, she sobbed harder, telling me that Santa hadn't brought her enough toys and that she hadn't had enough presents to open.

It would have been very easy for me to dismiss her behavior as being a spoiled brat -- trust me, she had more than enough gifts -- but I know my daughter's temperament and I knew her emotional display was more than she was letting on and probably more than she understood. As she cried and I listened, I realized that what my little one was experiencing was something many adults go through -- post holiday letdown. Usually occurring after January 1, the post-holiday blues are when you deal with the emotions of the world quickly going from being an exciting, magical place back to everyday life. For preschoolers, the transition can be exceptionally difficult.

The holidays are all about sensory overload which also takes some getting used to, but once your preschooler learns to revel in the festivities, it can be a hard journey back to the day-to-day activities that a regular schedule offers. Luckily, kids this age are creatures of habit who crave routine. So with a little extra TLC on your part, your preschooler will soon be back to loving everything life has to offer -- even if holiday music isn't playing in the background. Here's how:

  • Get Moving Exercise is a great mood booster. As you increase your physical activity, your body actually releases endorphins that gives your brain a better sense of well-being. Even if it's cold outside, you and your preschooler can "go sporty" right in your living room. Try jumping jacks, running in place or even some sit ups. Not only will your little one benefit from the activity, but chances are she'll get a kick out of you "working out" with her. Blast some kid-friendly music while you "train."
  • Start a New Tradition One of the nicest aspects of the holidays season is all the traditions that it offers and how it brings your family together to do something that's uniquely yours. So start a new one for January that your preschooler can be a part of. Maybe it's sorting through all the photos you've taken throughout the year and making a scrapbook, or maybe it's going for a hike through a local nature center and cleaning up the trash. In any case, pick something that your whole family can get on board with and will be likely to do every year.
  • Share Your Own Feelings Chances are, you are feeling a case of the holiday blues yourself. Talking about how much you enjoyed the holidays and are unhappy to see them end will show your preschooler that what he is feeling is normal. Be sure to talk on a level your little one will understand -- say something like, "One of my favorite things every year is when we decorate the Christmas tree. I sure am sad when we have to take it down. But the best part is, we get to do it again next year!"
  • Plan Something to Look Forward To Are your planning a vacation in the coming year? Are you expecting a new baby in the family? Is there a big family event coming up? Talk about it. And even if there is nothing monumental on your social calendar, point out things that that are upcoming that your preschooler likes -- going back to school, playdates with friends or the resumption of a favorite activity like dancing or scouts.
  • Give Your Family Some Quality Time Sometimes the best cure is the simplest. Give your preschooler the gift of time with you. Spend time playing with those new toys, completing a puzzle, cooking together or cuddling up on the couch with a book or a movie. It is likely that a favorite aspect of the holidays for your little one was all the time she got to spend with you, so be sure to keep doing it.
  • Relive the Memories Embrace how much your preschooler loved the holiday season. Watch the home videos, go through the photos and share your favorite stories from the past month. What was your little one's favorite part? Present? What was yours? Taking time to appreciate your best-loved holiday moments will only make you and your preschooler realize what a special time the holidays are and will make counting down to when they arrive next year that much more fun!