If you are like me, your Facebook news feed is filled with suggestions and activities and outings for the holidays that can’t be missed, not to mention all the family obligations! All of them look and sound wonderful and make me think that everything is not to be missed, or I will somehow deprive my family of a magical holiday season. But here’s the thing – most of them need to be missed in order to have a magical holiday season! The pressure to squeeze everything in and to get everything done is enormous and it’s the youngest members of our family who have the hardest time coping. How many times have you walked past the one hour plus line to see Santa and witnessed screaming children and stressed out parents? Or gone to Christmas in the Country and planned to spend all day in quaint St. Francisville only to be derailed by your toddler’s meltdowns? Or gathered the whole family at your house for some cookie decorating and your little one spends the whole time stuck to your leg like glue and refuses to budge? This wonderfully magical season can be anything but for our children. Here are some ideas that may help ease the stress of the holidays:
- Don’t expect children to always be happy or appreciative during this chaotic time. Children will feel anxious, upset and grouchy when their routine is off or they are over scheduled.
- Keep routines as normal as possible, even while on vacation. Maintain normal mealtimes and bedtime routines. A simple disruption can create havoc.
- Eat healthy. It’s very tempting to grab a bite on the go but adults and kids alike need to eat plenty of healthy foods during the holidays. Limit your caffeine and NEVER allow children caffeine. Be mindful of their sugar intake. A caffeine and/or sugar crash will lend itself to a meltdown of epic proportions.
- Plan for plenty of down time and don’t fill up every single minute with one activity after another. Remember, if your child was at school or child care during the day, they have probably reached their limit of stimulation for the day.
- Make a plan of what is most important to you. Letting go of the less important things won’t dampen the holiday spirit and will most certainly ease the stress. Take into consideration your child’s routine and best coping time of the day and plan events and outings around that.
- Focus on “the experience” and “the people” instead of “the things”. Is it more important to have perfectly decorated cookies than to have fun with the people gathered together to bake?
- Prepare children for holiday guests. In all honesty, many of the people who come visit or you go visit during the holiday season may be relatives but are relative strangers. Sometimes showing photographs to children and talking to them about who will be visiting helps. Do not force your child to hug or kiss someone they do not want to (body autonomy – a topic for another post) and explain to your guests that you support your child’s decision and will not force your child to show affection.
- Lastly – include your child in the preparations. Whether it’s creating decorated placemats, making homemade wrapping paper, setting the table or helping cut the vegetables and preparing the meal, include your child in meaningful tasks. They will be more connected and feel proud to be included.
Simple, right? Not likely! It’s hard not to get caught up in the madness of it all but I promise, limit your activities, maintain a consistent routine and be mindful of your child’s limits and you should get through this holiday season relatively unscathed (and your child care provider will be ever so grateful too!)
All images for this article sourced from a Google Image search of “crying child”.