Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s….
I love this incredible time of year! Family, friends and all the joys of togetherness (yup…I made that up) mixed with foods, special treats, bright lights… Oh, the wonders of the holidays!
Unfortunately, for the all the excitement and fun, I’ve found this time of year is especially difficult for my little ones. Major meltdowns can cut our holiday activities short and creep up daily until life gets back to normal.
Adding kid #3 this year has made me brainstorm on my best coping strategies for minimizing the chaos and (our) tears!
How to help your little ones cope with holiday chaos:
- Try to keep as much routine as possible. Bedtime, mealtimes, naptimes. Babies and toddlers (even some adults) thrive on having a regular schedule. It makes them feel secure and loved.
- Be the calm they need. Try not to stress. Here is one of my biggest struggles as a mom. My kids feed off my emotional state! A stressed anxious mommy quickly creates a stressed, anxious home. During the holidays (well…all year), my goal is to do my best to plan and not let negative self-thinking take the joy out of my household.
- Try to keep familiar food as an option. I enjoy all the special dishes each year, but I’ve learned that fighting a toddler to eat food he’s never seen before or absolutely hates is not a battle worth fighting at large get-togethers. So I save my “eat what’s in front of you” talks for our normal, routine days at home.
- Have a safe, quiet retreat spot planned at family gatherings. Bathroom, bedroom, basement even your warm car (with you) can be a neutral zone to hang out for a little while to let them come down off the “crazies.” Call ahead to the party host to see if you can plan a space ahead of time.
- Don’t be afraid to leave if your child (or you) needs out. Watch for their signals before the meltdown starts. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Leave for home. Get a hotel room for the night if you’re out of town. If people try to talk you out of going, kindly remind them you know your kid the best and will do what is best for them. An exhausted, overstimulated kid is in no position to learn to “deal with it” at that moment.
- Expect them to be clingier. It is totally normal for them to regress a little over the holidays as they’re learning to cope with lots of busyness. My littles ones usually ask for extra snuggles at bedtime. Don’t be surprised if they have “accidents” in bed or struggle with frequent nighttime waking for a week so after the holidays. It will get better! Give them the security they need now and then get them back on schedule as soon as possible.
- Make yourself go to sleep at decent times. It’s so easy to want stay up with the other adults after the kids go down, but keep in mind you will probably pay for it the next day. My kids rarely sleep in even if they have been up several hours past bedtime. I’ve come to the mature point in my life where I realize I need the sleep!
- Remember this time is short! Every year they will be a little older and (hopefully) will develop more skills in handling the chaos. Eventually they will be keeping you awake for the New Year!
- Plan time for physical activity. Get the kids moving especially if you’re going to be staying with friends or family. Major sugar crash plus cooped up toddler equals meltdown. Help them find a safe space to burn it off.
- Recruit help from your spouse or other family. My husband and I take turns or divide and conquer with helping the kids during holiday parties. Also, my kids have awesome aunts, uncles and cousins who do a great job entertaining them! Ask for a break from trusted family members your kids know well.
- Talk about the holiday and what they can expect. Use scripting for thank yous and other social manners. I must credit this parenting strategy to my amazing husband! He is in home sales and teaches his agents sales scripting. He figured if scripting worked in the adult world why not do it with the kids. So, instead of just telling the kids what they shouldn’t do or say, we give them the words and will act out scenarios to give them tools to pull from.
Well…that’s all folks! I hope this list is useful for you to strategize for your family. As always, let me know what you think, what worked for you, and other ideas you have for moms navigating the waters of busy holidays! Please share and leave comments below.