The holiday season can bring some additional stress; more guests and events, more preparation and responsibility, and more time at home for your children. Some reminders about how to minimize conflict and enjoy time together could come in handy.
Pace yourself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle. Be aware of your child’s pace and make time for it. Most children are not good at rushing, but they might enjoy a slower pace at holiday events—taking in the sights, figuring things out, listening to the sounds.
Be present and connected. This is an exercise in mindfulness; being immersed in what you are doing. By leaving the concerns of the day behind, you will enjoy the holiday from your child’s perspective and both of you will get more from the experience. When you’re spending time with your kids, you should be spending time with your kids.
Unplug. Turn cell phones to silent; off is better. Turn off the TV and computer so you’re not tempted by distractions. Everyone feels and acts better when not competing for attention. Be wary of additional tasks that take you away from the family. Make choices in everyone’s best interest. You may decide to do less and spend more time on things that really matter.
Nobody’s perfect…even if Santa—or Gramma—is watching. With all of the excitement, not to mention the changes in diet and routine, children are bound to have some extra behavior challenges. Adjust your expectations and focus on helping them do their best by using prevention and positive discipline strategies:
*Child proof your holiday schedule by making sure your child gets the food and rest that she needs. Consider her need for attention and entertainment while running errands or at family gatherings. Some children get more active and energetic during festivities, others become clingier. Don’t expect your child to sit or wait in an adult setting longer then she is able. Consider a babysitter. Threats, punishments, and even bribes just increase stress levels and do nothing to improve behavior, or mood!
*Redirect behavior. Sometimes young children tantrum or hit and older children may whine or sass. When the line gets crossed, help your child come back around by redirecting, or helping him make amends. Instead of a time out, take a break with your child and help him settle down and reenter the group.
*Use natural and logical consequences. Children learn positive behavior best through practice, not punishment. Let children learn how to make amends for wrong doings (help a hurt child feel better, replace a broken toy, older children can apologize for hurt feelings) or lose privileges they are not handling well (take a break, leave the activity, older children may have a toy taken away if they can’t share.)
So go ahead and feed the festive spirit with a little more sugar and laughter, and a little less of routines and expectations. Strive for balance. By slowing down and being more conscious of how you spend your time with your kids, you may find you are less frustrated, irritable and stressed.
Jenni Evans and is a parent educator at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital