Thanksgiving is on the way. How can you manage all the holiday hoopla that’s runs from now into January, reduce the stress and increase the happiness for you and your kids? Here are some simple tips that might keep the season bright.
Get lots of sleep
Make sure your kids – even your teenagers – get 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Toddlers and preschoolers need even more. It’s difficult to get sleep when there’s so much going on but try to keep regular bedtimes throughout the holiday season.
Try for a nap or quiet time on days that are filled with events and disruption. Stop the action for everyone for at least 30 minutes – 45 minutes or an hour is even better. The little kids can sleep and the bigger kids can read or watch quiet television and just chill out for a while. If you’re out and about and things are getting hectic but there’s no time for a break, stop anyway, get a snack, run around on a playground. Getting everything done is not so important as having a pleasant time. Do what you can to ensure your kids are rested and not overtired or overstressed.
Watch the sugar and chocolate
Each person who offers candy knows only about this candy. It’s up to you to keep track of the mounting total. Practice saying, “How nice! We’ll save this to enjoy later!” And remember that “later” need never arrive. Your child is under no obligation to eat all the junk she’s offered and you are under no obligation to permit her to do so.
Make certain that meals and even snacks are nutrient dense and healthful. Remember that nutrition is a zero-sum game and tummies full of junk food have no room for foods that are good for them and will make kids feel better longer. This might mean that your children will need kid friendly meal alternatives at least some of the time. So take some string cheese or peanut butter crackers or a carton of yogurt with you when you go out and about. Fuel your child’s holidays with good food and you’ll get better behavior.
Stay on top of behavior
Set the parameters ahead of time. Let kids know what’s going to happen in what order and what sort of behavior is expected in each situation. If you’re going to the Nutcracker ballet, for example, let your child know what’s going to happen, how she’s supposed to behave and what she can do while she’s there. She doesn’t know, so help her out just a little bit.
Alert your child ahead of time about relatives your child will encounter but maybe won’t remember. Great Aunt Susie might expect that your 10-year-old remembers her from last year. But children’s memories are pretty porous. So give your kids some help. Take out the photo album and look at Great Aunt Susie’s picture, remember the names of her cats, what town she lives in and other things that will give your child a way to connect with this person even before she shows up. The older your child, the more social skills are expected of him, so throw your child a conversational lifeline.
Use tools to help children understand when things will happen. You can make a paper chain and cut off a link every day until you get to the target event. An Advent calendar works well here too. On those days that are just packed with events or errands, help your child know what’s going on by making a list on a piece of paper or a chalkboard. Even children who are nonreaders like to know that there is a limited list of things that are going to happen and they can cross items off as each one is accomplished. It helps children feel less like baggage and more like participants.
Pay attention to the good stuff
Notice self-control, sharing, turn taking and so on and let your child know you appreciate his efforts. We get the behavior we pay attention to so pay attention to what you want to see more of. And don’t wait until your child is completely round the bend before trying to rein him in. Try to catch things before he acts out. Then redirect him – give him a job to do, read him a story, or start a sing along – anything to break up the mood and get your child back on track. Help your child feel successful and in control and then thank him for being so grownup.
Get your kids outdoors even on days of celebration. Being inside too long is too much for just about any child, so wherever you go make sure that you take along outdoor clothing and get the kids out to play. Even going for a walk is a help.
And, finally, filter things through your understanding of your child’s temperament. If you know your child is a bit bouncy and little impulsive and then maybe the ballet is not the best event for your family. Maybe going caroling, or ice skate or sledding would be more fun for your child. If you know your child has difficulty in a crowd of strangers, give her some things to talk about or some tasks to do that will give her a role without making her feel self-conscious. Make sure your child feels as happy about all of the events and all the people she’s going to see this holiday season as you’d like her to be.
As you make your plans for the holiday season, keep in mind what your children like to do and what they need to know to be successful. By thinking ahead, you can be thankful for more serene, joyous holidays.
© 2012. Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. An audio presentation of this content is available for free download at http://traffic.libsyn.com/pnananderson/Happy_Holidays_audio.mp3.