The holidays are a time to be with friends and family and to experience the joy of shared hope. But many times, the holidays also bring too much hurrying and not enough family time. Most of us have learned to manage the stress the befalls most adults, yet we overlook the added stress that is put onto children who are ill-equipped to handle quick transitions, broken routines, greater expectations and less time with parents. The following ideas may help you and your children to thrive during the holidays.
Preserve Routines and Relationships
- Be sensitive to the changes that occur in a child’s world when family and friends descend upon your home and make it a Bed & Breakfast for the holidays. If a child is giving up their room for a guest to use, transfer the child’s favorite things to the temporary room to make it feel extra comfy.
- Perhaps allowing a special treat, like falling asleep or taking a nap in Mom and Dad’s bed, will help make the holidays special to a young child.
- Find time to have a designated time with your child, even in the midst of the busy holiday season. Taking time out to read a story to cousins during an adult party can fill a child’s love tank very quickly.
- Even away from home, establish routines. Even more than adults, children find routines and repetition comforting. It helps them to know that certain things happen the same way each time. Establishing routines for doings things together also makes it less likely that your child will misbehave. Keep the morning and evening routines the same whenever possible.
- Create a job for each child and a way for them to contribute to the holiday dinner. One can make placemats for a special breakfast, one can make the rolls and another can decorate the table or light the candles.
- Respect your child’s wishes not to kiss or hug a relative. Children should be polite; role playing how to greet guests and say goodbye helps. Sometimes saying goodbye to a grandparent a few hours before they (or you) actually go helps children feel more comfortable—especially when they are very sad to see a special person leave.
Prepare for Traveling
- Feed your children before leaving the house. Many times the schedule for dinner at someone else’s house will leave your children very hungry and grumpy.
- If you are traveling or visiting a friend’s home for dinner, take a favorite food or snack. Take sippy cups and non-messy snacks like grapes. If you have a preschooler, show him or her where to find the bathroom.
- Prepare your child for being a guest and for traveling. Children need to know what to expect in a home with different rules.
- Pack craft activities for everyone to work on while visiting. Paper Bag Puppets, Paper Woven Placemats, and God’s eyes are easy to bring along.
- Keep your children’s bedtimes—even out of town. A tired child is rarely a joy to be around.
- Consider a moratorium on the manners lessons during holidays. Your meal will be much more pleasant for the children and adults. Children don’t enjoy being criticized in public.
By Jenny Beaumont, Swan Learning Center, www.swanlearningcenter.com