With Thanksgiving coming up in 1 short week, it is official: the holidays are upon us. And with that, mothers everywhere are looking forward to peaceful, relaxing, days filled with nothing but pleasantries, delicious food, and good holiday cheer.
More like wrestling overtired and highly sugared children out of their stained t-shirts and into something moderately presentable before schlepping them off to a relative’s house where you will spend the meal refilling milk cups, cutting up food that goes uneaten, and praying they don’t break Great-Aunt Sally’s lovely china. Or is that just me?
While the holidays are certainly a time of family togetherness and an opportunity to create lasting memories, when you add young children to the equation, you often add a lot of stress as well. This will be my 4th holiday season as a mom with little ones and having experienced the broken dishware at Thanksgiving, off-schedule meltdown for Hanukkah, itchy sweater tantrum during Christmas Eve service, and over-stimulation craze of Christmas day, I feel like I am finally starting to hit my stride. Maybe. Via wine, prayer, and a few of these helpful hints…
1. Keep it Simple
I know we strive to create beautiful holiday memories for our children, but do you really have to follow through on every single Thanksgiving craft you’ve pinned? Probably not. Simplicity allows for the space in which we can breathe, relax, and truly enjoy. Try to find a way to simplify your holiday season this year – whether it be cutting back on the number of houses you stop at, the menu and over-the-top decorations, or the number of gifts exchanged. I assure you, your children will not miss out on anything if they have a mom who is unstressed and able to be there with them in the moment.
Planning with young children helps everything go a little smoother and holidays are no exception. If you will be enjoying your holiday at someone else’s house, be sure to have a stocked diaper bag at the ready filled with a change of clothes, lovies, snacks, toys, coloring and other items that will help calm and entertain the kiddos. Keep the kids’ naps and bedtime in mind and talk with family about how you can work around those. Also, plan *with* the children. Talk to them about how you will be spending the holiday, who will be there, and what your expectations for their behavior will be (“No, you don’t have to eat everything Grandma puts on your plate, but it is never okay to complain about food someone worked hard to make. Just leave it off to the side.“)
3. Be Flexible
You know your children best and the areas in which they are most able to be flexible, but maybe skipping nap for one day or staying up a little past their bedtime is okay (though I don’t recommend both!). One day of poor nutrition isn’t going to kill them and even though you may not typically allow them to watch TV, if a little football with their uncle will keep them out of trouble for 20 minutes, perhaps you’ll consider looking the other way. When you take the day in stride, your children will take an important cue from you. However, just like my Weight Watchers leader always said, the holiday is just one day. Once that day is over, it’ s right back on track!
4. Take Care of Yourself
Because how we are feeling dictates so much of how our children are feeling, it’s important that we do what we can to lower our stress and keep our sanity during this crazy time. Allow yourself 20 minutes to take a walk or read a book, breathe deeply, and interrupt the running to-do list in your head once in a while for thoughts of peace, thankfulness, and what the holiday really means to you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. A babysitter for a couple of hours to clean your house in peace or asking your cousin to keep an eye on the baby for a bit so you can really savor a piece of Nana’s famous apple pie can go a long way. Don’t forget, this is your holiday too!
And if all else fails? Remind yourself that this will only be for a few years. They won’t be little for long! (Oh, how that thought brings tears to my eyes…I’m just not sure if they are tears of sadness, or relief!)
How do you survive the holidays with your little ones? Any tips or tricks to pass along?