At this very moment people all over the country are frantically preparing meals, decorating, traveling, and tidying up before guests arrive for what is only the start of the holiday season. While the holidays bring families together along with many fond memories they can also mean changes in schedules, environment, and expectations. I oftentimes hear parents talk about how overwhelming this season can be. Most parents are juggling preparing for their family functions while attending increased social events, volunteering, and keeping up with their regularly scheduled routines.
The anticipation and excitement is felt equally by children along with the changes in routines and schedules. You may see that your children are experiencing increased outbursts, overstimulation, difficulty relaxing, and irritability.
It is no wonder so many families are left exhausted. However, there are ways to make this holiday season a little less stressful and allow you to focus on what really matters: enjoying time with your loved ones.
Make a family calendar: If you do not already have a calendar that is accessible to the whole family this may be a great time to create one. Kids thrive on predictability and this will allow them to see what each day brings. Include school events, times of worship, play dates, holiday parties, arrival of family members and departures for trips. Allow younger kids to take a role in making the calendar by writing or drawing in their events. It is also a good idea to schedule in time for shopping and running errands. This is a great way for parents prepare kids for what is often a disliked activity by many.
Maintain routines as much as possible: It is easy to start changing bed times and meal schedules but these can contribute greatly to changes in behavior. Try as best you can to maintain the same bedtime as kids do much better with a good night’s rest. If meal times will change times be prepared by providing an extra snack. This will avoid having children getting hungry, which can make them very cranky. Also if bedtime is happening away from home make sure you pack items that remind your child of home. It can be a blanket, their favorite story, or a special stuffed animal. This will make sleeping away from home easier.
Make unstructured time fun: you’ve been there. You get invited to a dinner party at 6 only to notice upon our arrival that dinner is nowhere close to being ready. While it is fun for adults to take this time to mingle for kids this may be “boring”. Prepare your child for what is expected of them and even role play conversations. For example, telling them that their grandmother is going to love hearing about their latest basketball win can prepare a child to talk about it. However, do not expect them to do this for hours. If it is possible, plan ahead with family and friends to have a special activity for kids such as an art and craft activity, a board game, or screening a special movie. This will keep them busy and engaged and allow you to have time to catch up with the other adults in the room.
Rules, they are not the same everywhere: Have a conversation with your child about different rules in different households. This will allow you to talk about expectations of them and prepare them if rules are unfamiliar. If you know for example, you are going to house where a certain room is off limits to children, or everyone must take off their shoes before coming in let your child know what to expect. On the other hand some households are more flexible than yours. We all know grandparents and aunts and uncles who are ready to give in to a little extra sugar and who are ok with children running in the house. Decide ahead of time how flexible you will be with rules during the visit and talk to your children and family regarding the rules. Telling your family that your child is not allowed to stay up past ten may avoid an unnecessary power struggle during your visit.
Learn to say no: Many families are bombarded with invitations and activities this time of year. We all want to take advantage of see as many of our family and friends. However, this can be very daunting on your schedule. Instead of squeezing in one more activity into your already packed schedule, offer an alternative. Many families go from having too many activities to having a lot of flexibility come the New Year. Suggest getting together early in the New Year instead. This will not only make your days less stressful it will give you fun activities in the midst of winter when it is oftentimes hard to get out of the house. Remember you may want to do it all but it is best to be able to enjoy all that you do.
Take care of yourself: We often stress that this is the time of year to think of others and be giving, but you cannot do that if you are not taking care of yourself. Make sure you are attuned to your own needs and feelings. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy each day such a reading a book, watching TV, talking to a friend, or taking a walk. You may also want to plan for a night away from the kids and enjoy time with your partner or with friends and family. Remember the less stressed you are the more you will be able to focus and enjoy all the activities you have planned.
Make time for a fun family event: Keep the activity simple. You can have a movie night, family game night, go ice skating, make breakfast for dinner, plan a craft together, or watch old family movies. Allow children to be a part of the planning. Maybe they can prepare a snack for the activity or set up supplies for the craft. Make sure it is fun and relaxing for everyone.
Parents are dedicated to making this time of year the best for their children but remember it should be fun for the whole family. With these tips the extra time with children this year can be spent doing more of what you and your family enjoys most.
Posted by Karol Espejo