Many of us can’t wait for the holidays. We imagine lazing around with family, drinking hot cocoa and kids content to play all day, needing nothing but their new toys. In reality, we often find ourselves frantically finishing holiday shopping while wrapping up work projects before the kids are out of school for two weeks. Not to mention packing for travel or rearranging the house to accommodate in-laws. Alas, it seems that sometimes our fantasy does not align with reality.
Fear not! Here are three tips for setting yourself and your family up for a sane holiday season:
Remember The Routines
A few days into every school break, I wonder why my kid is hungry and grumpy. Then I remember; they are out of their routine! Elementary school children operate on a tight eating schedule. There’s breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack at school, after school snack, followed by dinner - all at pretty much the same time every day. Basically if it’s been 2-3 hours since your child has eaten, their latest gripe may be hunger inspired.
While we don’t have to run on an exact schedule during breaks, we do need to be mindful of how much we are drifting from normal routines. If you know you are traveling one week and schedules will be off, make sure the other week is as consistent with normal routine as it can be. With young children, keep mealtimes and sleep as normal as you can. Some kids roll with the changes easier than others; pay attention to their cues and adjust as necessary.
Keep Expectations In Check
Holidays are suppose to be full of fun, so what’s with the meltdowns? Let’s see…they have been up late every night, the little one has missed half of their naps, they have all had a ton of sweets and we have five extra people staying in the house. Oh and don't forget all the presents and special activities. Is it any wonder our kids are not quite their normal selves?
Here’s the thing: It is absolutely ok to live it up over the holidays, but we need to cut them and ourselves some slack. It’s not fair to our kids to blame the ensuing meltdowns and misbehavior when we are the ones in charge of the schedule. So instead of panicking and taking all their new gifts away, take a deep breath and relax. Enjoy the time, laugh at the chaos and show some compassion to your kids. It will make the holidays much more fun for all.
Speaking of compassion, we need to show some for ourselves. Our routines may be off too. It’s a busy time of year and parents often start off the break depleted. There are houseguests and extended family around, often pushing our buttons and stepping in the middle of parenting challenges. By the second week of kids out of school, we all may start to feel a little Scrooge-like.
Make sure you carve out some time for yourself. If you know you usually lose it by day three of having your own parents around, plan a break and have the grandparents take care of the kids for a bit. If nothing else, family in town is a great opportunity to plan a date night with your partner.
We often spend months looking forward to the holidays. We do all we can to make sure it’s perfect for the kids. The truth is, we can let go of the need to do it all. It’s ok to order pizza one night or put the kids in charge of dinner. Think more Buddha, less Martha Stewart. Taking care of yourself means you can actually be present, which is really the best gift we can give our kids this holiday season and all year long.