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The Party's Over - Now what?


Dear Dr. Mary and Lynn:

My spirited son has just turned eight.  We had a party, a small gathering of friends which works well for him.  He had a great day. Today his behavior is horrid.  He is very easily frustrated, yelling and rude.  I just talked with him and he told me he is upset that his birthday is over.  Any suggestions of how to help him, and what we could do next year to avoid this again?  -Cassidy

Dear Cassidy:

You are not alone.  Requests for private consultations surge after major holidays.  So let’s do a little digging.  We always want to look for the fuel source – the real feeling or need behind the behavior.  Could he be exhausted? His preference for small groups makes us wonder if he might be an introvert who enjoys the celebration but finds it draining.  Or was he so excited he didn’t sleep well?  Did he eat more sugar than is typical?  A change in diet can have a dramatic influence on behavior.  Did he have expectations for the day that were not met?  Or is he experiencing a very common “let down” after a big event? 

Let’s assume it may be the latter so respond as an emotion coach teaching him that what he is experiencing is called a “let down.”  Other people experience this feeling too.  You might even share a “let down” you remember.  By giving it a name and describing it you empower him to verbalize the sensations he is encountering so that he can clearly communicate it in the future and work with you to plan for success.  If he is more introverted he may wish to plan a quiet, low-key day following a big event in order to recharge.  If he prefers extroversion he may wish to plan a play date to ease the transition. 

If the “real fuel source” is fatigue, overstimulation or dietary – you would do the same thing.  Name it, describe it, let him know he is not the only person who experiences those feelings and then together plan for success. 

Question:  Think about your child’s temperament and your own.  What do you need to ease a “let down”?  Is your need similar or different from your child’s? 

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