At Grow Parenting we know how stressful the holidays can be with all the celebrations, shopping, meals, traveling and gift giving that takes place. There is so much to enjoy during the holidays, but if we as parents don’t keep perspective on what really matters our precious holidays can turn out to be a serious disaster. We hope that you will be able to use these three tips to get more of what you want from your family's time together.
1. Remember routines
Holidays are often filled with vacations, family traditions, special occasions, and lots of fun. While we want to enjoy these special times, set your kiddos up for success by being mindful of their usual routines. Children thrive in their daily routine. From wake-up until bedtime, the more they can predict about their day, the greater their comfort and ease. Children often feel anxious or stressed when they are out of their usual routine, leading to more meltdowns and misbehaviors. To minimize this, give your child lots of notice about travel, changes in schedule, and new people and places. In addition, try to keep the parts of your child’s routine that you can, particularly nap times and bedtimes. Enjoy the holidays by preparing your child for fun and remembering to be compassionate if their behavior is different than usual.
2. Maintain realistic expectations
Another way to alleviate stress and anxiety while planning the perfect holiday, is to plan and accept that something will go wrong. Having very rigid plans and expectations for the holidays can often be a recipe for disappointment and heightened holiday stress. Holiday meals may not come out the way you had planned them, there may be a tantrum or two (or 20) and people may be disappointed by the gifts they received. Being prepared for the unforeseeable can help reduce stress.
Time is also an important factor in maintaining realistic expectations. It can be helpful to overestimate the time needed rather than underestimate your time so that there is room for“something” to happen that was not on the agenda.
Creating a holiday mantra is a great way to keep grounded and focused on what really matters to you and your family during the holiday season. One example might be “As long as we’re together, that is all that matters!” And know that if you try to do too much, you and your children will probably be too exhausted to enjoy it.
3. Plan your self care
Who says the holidays are just for kids?! The holidays are a special time for everyone, including moms and dads. Make sure your needs are considered during this holiday season. Most parents do a great job of scheduling activities for the family, but forget to schedule time for themselves.
If you want to enjoy this time with the kiddos your physical and emotional tank needs to be filled and maintained. Scheduling a coffee with a friend, some exercise/yoga or just time to read your fave gossip magazine can make a world of difference. And don’t forget your relationship – a date night can help keep you and your partner on the same page and connected when navigating the holiday hustle and bustle. These short periods of self care will go a long way when trying to maintain the busy pace of the holidays. Because if mom and dad are not happy, nobody is going to be happy this holiday season!
About the author: Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a parent educator and consultant in the Seattle area. She is co-owner of Grow Parenting, where this piece was originally posted.