As the holidays approach, I thought it would be a good time to share some quick tips that make it easier to parent with peace and actually enjoy holiday family time. I’m noticing that I feel a much greater sense of calm heading into the season and I think it’s because I’ve finally taken many of these tips to heart. I hope they resonate with you, too!
Take Care of Yourself
When my children have breaks and the routine gets out of whack, the first thing to go for me is exercise. But not this year! I know that my own well-being makes a huge difference in the whole energy of my home. What do you know you need to feel peaceful, grounded, and balanced over the holiday? Whatever it is, get it booked into your calendar now and protect it with your life.
Too many events packed into one day almost guarantees a meltdown. Children need downtime, time to run or move their bodies, or time to do whatever relaxes them. (Adults need these things, too.)
Holidays are meant to be different from “regular” time. Kids want to stay up a little later with their cousins. Grandpa wants to spoil the grandkids with a little extra candy. I’m not suggesting you let go of all structure — kids need structure to help them feel safe — but I do think that holidays are times to flex a bit, loosen up, and let the laughter and joy take priority.
Give Children Plenty of Advance Notice
Routines often go out the window during holiday breaks and that lack of predictability can throw many children off-balance. Sit the family down and write out the plan for the day (or week) so they can prepare for what’s coming. Remind them again well before the new activity or event. Whenever possible, involve your children in making the plan, or at least parts of it, so they feel some ownership and control over the day.
Make Agreements in Advance
Make agreements about rules for screens, smartphones, and other media during vacation time, then post them for all to see. If you have rules for the dinner table, re-visit them before the big Thanksgiving meal. Give your children a script for what to do or say when Grandma gives them a kiss that’s too wet, or when cousin Julie starts kicking them under the table. Practice if you can.
Provide Discipline in Private Whenever Possible
If you know me, you know that I think of discipline as guidance, not punishment. But in any case, it’s easy to feel pressure when parenting in public, especially when you suspect that your sister or parent doesn’t approve of your methods. For these reasons, I always try to move my child away from the public eye so that I can parent from my heart rather than from fear of judgment. For example, when my daughter made a snide comment to her cousin, I said, “Hey, can you help me in the kitchen for a minute?” and spoke to her privately there.
Keep It Simple
This year, I’m making an effort to model the calm and joy in simplicity. Do you really need to hand-make centerpieces and create place cards for the table? Choose those 2-3 items or to do’s that really matter to you and do them well. Everything else: good enough will definitely be good enough.
Remember Maya Angelou’s wise words: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”
Be Proud of Your Own Behavior and Let The Rest Go
For many, the biggest source of holiday stress comes from “challenging” family members. My mantra this year is “be proud of your own behavior and let the rest go.” For me, this means I want to feel happy about how I show up. I want to be thoughtful, kind, helpful, and joyful. I want to remember that I can’t control how other people behave during the holidays and therefore, I don’t need to be responsible for their behavior. I can only be responsible for mine and that’s good enough! If Aunt Mina drinks too much and insults my parenting, I don’t have to defend myself. I can say, “hmmmm, that’s interesting,” and change the subject.
My wish for you and for myself is to slow down and enjoy this time of year with more laughter, calm, and connection. That’s what I want to experience myself and model for my children. Life is good! Let’s enjoy it ( :
If you want more ideas, I thought this Parenting Over the Holidays Resource Guide from Hand-in-Hand Parenting was great.
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This is terrific advice. I was going to try to highlight my favorite in this comment, but there are too many. Wise words.
Thank you for your comment, Sarah!