It’s that time of year. We get over-scheduled, over fed, over-tired, over-stimulated, and pretty soon, we’re over the holidays entirely. We get together with people we don’t see very often, people who may or may not appreciate our kiddos’ needs and eccentricities. We lose track of routines and rituals that help keep our lives sane. Here are a few tips to make it a little easier:
1. Trim your to-do list. You might have a day that includes pancakes with Santa, the Nutcracker, a crafts festival and caroling with your best friends, all things you want to do. If you’re hearing the little voice in the back of your head (or your child melting down in the back seat) saying “this isn’t going to end well,” listen and cut your losses. Go home and move straight to the snuggles.
2. Front load the healthy foods. Food power struggles rarely end well for anyone. One way to reduce them is to offer healthy choices when your family is hungry, before you head out to the parties. If your kids are full of protein there’s less room for cookies. For days with back-to-back activities, pack some of your kids’ favorite healthy snacks in the car.
3. Remember the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to find the perfect gift. Your kids want you to enjoy being with them more than they want to hit every activity.
4. Know your kids’ maturity level. Holiday gatherings frequently use complicated social cues that your kids might not know. Grandparent Jones likes kids to be kids and encourages lots of activity, while Uncle Joe expects kids to sit quietly. Aunt Meg might want to say grace, whereas your family dinners start as soon as there’s food available. Don’t expect your kids to magically know what to do.
5. Practice! If your home dinners are generally casual, occasionally have fancy dinner, where you make a game out of learning the difference between dessert and salad forks.
6. Protect your family time. In the middle of extended family visits and travel, protect the moments that keep you connected, like bedtime stories and morning snuggles.
7. Forgive yourself. Holidays can be hard. Some of your festivities will feel less like celebration, more like a hell realm. That’s normal, and doesn’t reflect on your parenting abilities. We all have those days.
8. Build in alone time. All of us– you, your kids, your visiting relatives– need space. Take some time daily to go for a walk, meditate, read, take a bath, or all of the above. Prioritize self-care.
9. Build in time to just be kids. Meeting Santa may be fun, but waiting in line is taxing. Making gifts at a craft fair may be fun, but taking turns with the scissors is exhausting. Kids are expected to pull out lots of socially appropriate behavior around the holidays. Make sure there’s time for low-expectations, or even no-expectations. You can do that by going outside and making all the noise you want, having a completely unscheduled day, or even a “yes day.”
10. Keep your kids informed on what to expect. Most kids do better when they know what’s happening. Let them know your plans, including how long you plan on staying and what comes next. As much as possible, let them help with the planning.
Here’s to holidays that don’t leave you feeling like you’ve been flattened by a taxi.
If you’d like some more Elf, join us for Elf day. Sunday, December 17th, we will open our doors from 12-6 for relaxed, low-pressure, hanging out time. There will be a quiet room, a movie room, some games and some crafts. Most of all, there will be time to connect and chill with low expectations.