Mental Health Monday: The Aftermath of Christmas with Sensitive Kids

We have had a fabulous family Christmas. It’s been intense but it’s been fun and full of love and laughter. We’ve had overnight guests, cooked for 10 on Christmas day and then another Christmas dinner for 8 on Boxing day. It’s such a busy week every year because we are the ‘hub family’ and tend to host more than anyone else for the sake of practicality. We love it, but something happens with our little boy when things get crazy.

Our usually well behaved little guy becomes completly horrible. It started on Christmas eve when we accidentally lost track of time and didn’t feed him his lunch before we left the house, we had to stop at the only place I knew I could get a quick bit of dairy free food for him and hope for the best. So he had a muffin from  a coffee shop for lunch. The rest of the day involved full blown tantrums over every single little thing, in the packed town centre (our own fault for being disorganised I suppose!). As a result, we spent far longer out and about than we had planned and of course that just made things worse. When we got home we still had tons to do and he just wanted to cling to us relentlessly. Anyone who knows our little guy will know how fiercely independent he is, and how uncharacteristic clingy behaviour is. He has been going from cuddly to lashing out at us over the tiniest thing. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t doing it on purpose, he was just tired and confused. We stopped the feverish tidying  and organising and played trains on the floor until his eyes started getting heavy and put him to bed, he had conked out before I had even finished reading to him.

We didn’t think much of his low appetite on Christmas eve, but after we specifically made him mashed potatoes and peas to go with christmas dinner the next day and he didn’t even touch two of his favourite foods we knew this was more than just fussiness. The over excitement had drained our little lad and then we sit him at a usually calm table with 9 other people, Christmas crackers and music and expect him to eat dinner as normal but at lunch time? No. It just wasn’t happening. We let him go, knowing there had been a bit of snacking and that we could try again later. He had a late nap, followed by a jam sandwich and more excitement – the poor kid doesn’t know which way is up and which way is down by the time he gets to bed 3 hours after his bedtime.

Boxing day rolls around and we do it all again with my side of the family (on a slightly smaller scale). There are sweets and snacks everywhere, he somehow gets away with eating an entire moo free cocolate Santa in one hit, he’s completely baffled by how much other stuff has cows milk in it so he isn’t allowed to eat it but everyone else is.

When he refused his meal again on Boxing day I felt a pang of guilt that we had put him in this position, he’s acting out because suddenly everything he knows has changed in the blink of an eye and he has no idea how to handle it.

I’m tempted to pack away the decorations early to help us get back to business as usual  as soon as possible, because my poor little guy is exhausted and miserable now, especially since all the presents are done and the people are gone. We’re just left here with wrapping paper all over the place and a super fractious little boy who is needing a lot of contact and reassurance.

So if you need me, I will be on the sofa cuddling my toddler until the new year. See you on the other side.

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“Momo” Isn’t the reason I deleted the YouTube app

If you haven’t seen the frankly terrifying pictures and stories of “Momo” flying around social media you must have been living under a rock. I’m not going to add fuel to the fire by showing the image here though, and I beg you not to search it (especially not on a device that your child uses ). If your curiosity really gets the better of you then please search with private browsing. Momo actually made a brief appearance last year some time as well, but it was much smaller scale than the current outcry.
This sudden influx of terrifying content has caused a lot of parents to delete the YouTube application from devices that their children use, and you can understand why, but for our family, YouTube has been problematic in other ways for much longer, and a few weeks back I finally just got rid of it. The result? A happier, more focused child.

Attention Span

Holding the attention of a three year old can be hard enough, when that three year old can channel hop between unstimulating videos there is bound to be a problem. I noticed that he couldn’t focus long enough to complete simple tasks like finding his shoes or getting a drink if he had been merrily skipping through YouTube videos. All of our TV is streamed through the Xbox so he could easily switch you YouTube once he figured out how to use the controller, letting it go on for so long is possibly my biggest regret as a parent.

Behavioural Issues

My son is three and I will be the first to hold my hands up and say he gets too much screen time. It’s a habit I fell into that I am not proud of but it is what it is. what I have noticed is this: YouTube turns my kid into an a spoilt, bratty nightmare. My usually sweet little boy was getting spiteful and short tempered after we let him use YouTube. Tantrums were magnified way beyond his usual upset and resulted in an outright refusal to engage in anything else.

Dangerous Content

Aside from Momo, there are plenty of unsavoury things on YouTube – some of which are accessible even in the supposedly safe YouTube Kids app. It’s not even all dangerous, sometimes it’s just kids being a little bit naughty, but it all influences young minds. Other times, your children’s favourite characters might be having sex, swearing or even threatening your children in the middle of a seemingly innocent video. My son was watching Polar Express themed videos and the related videos lead him to a version of The Polar Express recreated in Minecraft which then lead him to watch an adult Minecraft streamer who was swearing like a sailor. That was the day we deleted the app, enough was enough.
I see a lot of people saying it’s fine as long as you supervise your kids online but  let’s face it, if you had time to closely supervise every second of your child’s viewing you have time to turn the screen off and do something more constructive. Perhaps I am wrong, but I know that the reason I rely on TV at all is so that I can actually get something done in the house, I’ll often be in the next room. If I do sit down to watch something with my son it will be a movie, something that takes a bit more concentration and  has a storyline that actually interests both of us.
So, YouTube are clamping down on Momo content and urging people to report videos they aren’t happy with, but that doesn’t stop YouTube being problematic in other ways. If recent events have lead you to delete it I encourage you to keep it uninstalled, no matter how safe they tell you it is in the coming weeks.

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