For a time that promises joy and laughter, the holidays can bring stress and tears to many. As overworked parents try to find ways to stretch their tight budgets to cover the extra expenses of presents, extravagant meals, and extra childcare, children are thrown out of the routines that make them feel safe and stable – even the older ones who tell you how happy they are to be out of school.
Remember the following to help reduce the tears and yelling and increase the laughter and fun:
- Seek ways to avoid the commercialization of Christmas: Think more fun, less stuff. If your child still believes in Santa there’s a magic to gifting, but it can also be exhausting. Work with your children on being realistic – there are almost 2 Billion children in the world and Santa has to take care of all of them, so one present per child is still A LOT of presents. Talk with your children about the real meaning of giving during the holiday season and encourage them to engage in good deeds – maybe donating to a toy drive, clearing the way for new toys by giving some of their gently used toys to a shelter or Good Will, or helping a neighbor shovel their walk.
- Emphasize structure and routine whenever possible: The holidays are notorious for throwing everyone’s schedules off. The children are out of school, they (and you) stay up late, and everyone rushes around shopping, participating in events, and going to parties. While some of the schedule change is unavoidable – nope, sorry, your child’s teacher is not going to continue to teach all the way through Winter Break no matter how much you plead – introducing some discipline into the family schedule is possible. Prioritize regular sleeping and eating routines – talk with family about how important these routines are to your children and be clear about what they need. Let older kids know that while there is some loosening up of the schedule during the holidays, there are still expectations you will enforce.
- Find a family holiday ritual: Whether it’s building a snow family or sledding, baking cookies, stringing popcorn to put on the tree, or making handmade gifts while listening to Christmas songs, it is the activities you engage in with your children that they will cherish. I couldn’t tell you a single present under the tree from my childhood, but I remember with fondness sitting with the whole family looking at the lights on the tree, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to Bing Crosby and Jim Nabors (okay, I’m showing my age).
- Get outside – yes, even when it’s cold: We often think of winter as a time when we put on weight due to a richer diet and less time outside moving around. Interestingly some studies recently have shown that the effect of cold on the body is to cause it to burn more energy and to produce a chemical that burns fat – even without exercise! Besides the potential for weight loss, increased access to Vitamin D from the sun helps fight depression on those bright albeit short winter days. And getting everyone out of the house avoids cabin fever, which inevitably leads to squabbling.
- Take some ME time: When it comes to routine, remember that it is important for you as well. If you usually go to the gym find some time to get there. Go for a short walk by yourself. Find a quiet corner and read a book. Take a bubble bath. And remember to get enough sleep.
Happy Holidays from the FACTS family to