For lots of parents, managing the post-festive period with kids who are grumpy and disappointed can be difficult (not least because we’re all feeling the same).
Cathy Ranson, editor of Channelmum, tells HuffPost UK: “A combination of over excitement, exhaustion, new toys, and too much sugar can test even the saintliest of parents.”
Relate counsellor, Dee Holmes agrees: “January can be difficult month for a lot of people, children included. It’s usually cold with little sunshine and while this is the case in December and November too, children have Christmas to look forward to then.”
But Holmes offers reassurance to parents, saying “there are plenty of things” you can do to ease kids out of this slump, or even “avoid it all together”.
1. Do let them have a lull.
We can all feel a bit low after Christmas, and that includes children, so cut them a bit of slack and let them have a festive sulk for a day or so.
Ranson says: “Let it go. Accept your children, especially little ones, will be hugely overexcited. Cut them some slack and yourself too.”
2. Don’t ditch the Christmas activities straight away.
After a month (or more) of build-up, putting an end to Christmas-related fun on 27 December can feel sad.
So make the most of any time you have at home with the children and keep up the activities.
“Spend time playing those games they were given as Christmas presents and haven’t had time to play yet,” Holmes says.
“Make time to watch any family TV programmes that you didn’t have time to see, take them to a Christmas pantomime – these continue into January and are something to look forward to and keep them in the Christmas spirit.”
“Catch up with friends and relatives that you didn’t get to see over Christmas. Even better if they have children who your kids can play with.”
3. Don’t try to sneakily get rid of the decorations.
You might think it is best to quickly get rid of the tree and decorations when they aren’t looking, but they’re obviously going to notice and might feel hurt you did it without them being involved.
So it might take longer, but Holmes recommends making the process into a “fun game” that you can all help out with.
Perhaps try replacing the tree with some new bulbs in the garden, that will bloom in spring, so they have something else to think about and look forward to.
4. Do reduce the sugar in their diet.
They might still be enjoying Christmas activities, but you want to think about trying to get them back on a diet that isn’t 90% sugar, chocolate coins and cold-cut sandwiches.
If they’re already struggling with their mood, having a disrupted diet that involves grazing on treats all the time, is likely to make them even more grumpy.
5. Do keep some routine in place.
In addition, try to get them back into a normal sleep routine, especially if you’ve been travelling around seeing family and friends.
Ranson says: “Five days before they start back at school, start sliding back bedtime until you reach the normal point.”
6. Do make new plans for 2018.
We might be disappointed that Christmas is over, but we also know that part of the fun is that it only happens every 365 days, rather than every day of the year.
Explain this to your children, and talk about things you have to look forward to.
Holmes says: “Maybe make some New Year’s resolutions with your children about things you want to do together such as a regular games afternoon, more meals around the dinner table or a nightly bedtime story.”
7. Do ensure there isn’t anything for them to be down about.
Although it is most likely that your child is just having a short spell of feeling under the weather, make sure that there isn’t actually a reason they could be upset, post-Christmas.
According to Holmes, Relate receives a spike in calls from families looking for counselling after tensions have peaked in the holidays: “Children tend to notice if their parents aren’t getting on,” so ensure they aren’t picking up on your tensions.
For more information and support:
PAPYRUS: Children and parents can contact HOPELineUK for advice and support. It is confidential and you will not be judged. Call 0800 0684141, text 07786209697 or email email@example.com.
Childline: Remind your child that Childline is there to give them free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.
YoungMinds: The parents helpline offers free, confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call 0808 8025544.