The Holiday Season with Children

As I prepare to tackle many of the tasks of our holiday season, I am reminded of some of the challenges and expectations the young children in our lives have.  Routines are an important part of their daily life to keep things predictable.  Oftentimes, their holidays are spent travelling to relatives’ homes that they spend little time in, with the expectation that they will be on their “best” behavior. What a hard task to live up to.  I know I feel cranky when I travel to places where I have little control over where I sleep and when and what I get to eat.  Don’t you?

Being around relatives and close friends is just part of the gig for the holidays but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for ANY of us.  Oftentimes, it’s lovely to catch up and make memories.  On the flip side many a meltdown can surface (and I mean that for all of us).  

Here are some survival tips for getting through the holidays:

  • Keep your routines as predictable as you can.  If lunchtime is usually at 12:00, try to keep it as close to that time as possible.  If you have a bedtime routine, stick with it.  
  • Try to find 30 mins to have down time with just your immediate family while traveling.   Taking a break for a ride in the car or to play a quiet game, reading a book together or going on a walk together.  Having some special family time while traveling can help to de-stress.
  • Sleep.  It’s often hard with the excitement to keep a regular bedtime.   We need all the recovery and energy we can get from sleep.  Bring your own pillows.
  • Help your children set boundaries on relatives.
    • Grandparents and relatives love to greet children with a hug or kiss.  Kids may not be ready and have a right to say no.  It models as a safety lesson to children.  (Check out the chapter It’s OK not to Kiss Grandma in Heather Shumaker’s book “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide”).  
    • Playing with cousins can also be tricky.  Help guide your kids in setting limits and listening to limits of relatives that your kids may be playing with.  
  • Know when to keep your stance and when to let it go.  You will likely encounter family members with different parenting styles during the holiday season.
    • If you have a hard and fast rule in your family, stand by it.  Remember in times of conflict to increase communication.  
    • If making a stance on something is not as important to you and will cause more family stress, just let it go.  Kids can begin to understand there are different rules at different places.  
  • Prep kids ahead of time as much as possible on your expectations for them.  
    • If it’s important to you that your kids say Thank You after receiving a gift, let them know that ahead of time.  “When I get a gift I say Thank You even if I don’t like it. “  
  • If all the tips and best intentions go out the window, that’s OK.   You will get through it and get back on track.  It will make coming home that much sweeter.  

…Amy Rudawsky, SYC Co-Director