‘Tis the season to be merry. Or stressed out. And, as the resident grown-up at your place, you’re the one who gets to decide how the holidays play out for you and your family.
If you take a relaxed, let’s-go-with-the-flow approach to merry-making (taking each day as it comes, not over-committing yourself or your family to too many seasonal obligations), your kids will be more inclined to embrace (or at least tolerate) the changes to their usual routine.
If, on the other hand, you get so caught up in the holiday hoopla that your toddler or preschooler slips to the bottom of your holiday priorities list, you shouldn’t be surprised if he morphs into a pint-sized version of The Grinch. Moderation is the name of the game when you’re in holiday parenting mode.
So keep your children’s needs in mind when you’re setting your holiday travel itinerary. Not only do young children need regular rest-stop breaks: they need time for cuddling and play, too. Trying to cram too much travel into a single day may get you to Grandma and Grandpa’s house a day sooner, but the entire family is likely to arrive in a less than festive mood.
Don’t be afraid to break with tradition—or to put some holiday traditions on hold while you have a young family. Instead of travelling out-of-province with a baby and a toddler, invite out-of-town relatives to visit you. Or shift your annual family get-together to a day during the holiday season when it’s easier for everyone to get together. (It doesn’t have to be The Big Day, like it’s always been.) Dream up some new ways of celebrating the holiday season that are uniquely meaningful to you. Part of the fun of starting a family of your own is creating holiday traditions of your own.
Consider your child’s interests and abilities when planning holiday activities. Aim for a variety of activities: activities that allow him to exercise and blow off steam (playing in the snow) and activities that allow him to enjoy some quiet one-on-one time with you after a busy day of visiting with friends and relatives (reading stories or baking together).
Keep your child’s basic routine in place as much as possible. While there will be some nights when you’ll want to allow him to stay up late, he’ll be happier (and you’ll be happier!) if he is well rested. You’ll also want to encourage him to eat healthy meals and snacks at their regular times. Doing so will help to keep his body clock on track, despite all the exciting things going on around him.
Take good care of yourself, too. Try to stay on top of your own needs for sleep, healthy food, exercise, and relaxation. Children pick up on our moods. And one of the best gifts you can give your children this holiday season is the gift of a happy, healthy, less-stressed-out you.