The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And, in a lot of ways, it is wonderful. Something about the season seems to bring out the best in many folks. However, too much of a good thing can lead to serious meltdowns for children and parents alike.
As you prepare to enjoy a wonderful season with your family, here are a few things to consider ahead of time.
- When it comes to your expectations of your children, keep them realistic. During the holidays, everything they are used to in the way of bedtime, the food they eat, who they spend time with and more gets thrown to the wind. While it is tons of fun, children can only take so much before they move into overload - and we all know that never ends well. Everyone will be happier if you can keep some semblance of routine and structure.
- Talk with your children about your plans for each day. Just like adults, it’s helpful if kids know what to expect. Keep it simple. Share the highlights.
- Keep your cool. When your child has a meltdown, it can be a challenge for you to not have one, too. Yelling and getting angry will only make matters worse, so stop and take a deep breath. Then, if possible, take your child to a quiet place where they can regain control.
- If you can, try to spread out the celebrations instead of doing everything in a 48-hour period. While it’s hard to say no to the grandparents, putting boundaries in place can make the celebrations more enjoyable for everyone, even if you celebrate on a different day. A note to grandparents: Your adult children often find it difficult to tell you no without feeling guilty. Asking your grown children what works best for them could really help them as they plan to celebrate.
For those in the midst of co-parenting:
- Talk about the fact that transitions are difficult. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t have a choice and you don’t have a choice; now how are we going to make the best of this situation?” can make things better for your child.
- Make a plan. Discuss how to make the transition easier. Then use your time together to make it a special celebration.
- Be prepared. Help them understand the possibility of a last-minute change in plans. Ask them what they would like to do instead and acknowledge the pain they may feel.
- Stay in the parent role. While it might be tempting to be your child’s buddy, that is not what they need from you. It is very difficult to go back to being the parent once you have crossed that line. Before you make or change plans, think about how it will affect your child.
- Children will follow your lead. If you have a bad attitude about the holidays, your children will probably follow suit. Set a positive mood for a holiday to remember.
Planning for bumps in the road beforehand can reduce holiday stress in your family and increase the chances for a joyful holiday. Wherever you find yourself, choose now to make the best of the days ahead.