The holidays are jam-packed with fun and family, which is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it can also be a very difficult time for small children. The change in routine and unfamiliar people and activities frequently cause children to struggle and be irritable. There are some steps that parents can take to help the holidays not be so hard on children. Here are some tips to help your whole family enjoy the holidays with small children.
Keep as Close to the Typical Routine as You Can
Between late-night family gatherings and early morning travel, your little one may be way outside her normal schedule. As much as you can, keep her routine familiar throughout the holidays. This may mean showing up a little later to the family meal or saying goodnight before the last toast is made. But ultimately, it will mean that your child is more flexible and amenable throughout the festivities.
Prepare Your Child and Your Relatives for Each Other
It may be that you will be spending time with relatives who don’t often see your child. In this case, it’s important to speak to your child before family gatherings to let him know who he will see. Even if the names aren’t familiar, you can spend time telling him about the people in the family and how they are all connected. If you have the opportunity, you can also speak to your relatives and let them know a little about your child. Does he love trains or take martial arts? Giving each party a little information about each other will help them connect when they meet in person.
Try to Give Your Child Space to Warm Up
Walking into a family gathering is overwhelming for many people. Add in being a small child, and the effect can be dramatic. When you arrive at a new place, try to give your child time to adjust to her new surroundings. Point out people she knows, and activities available (likes food or toys), and let her know you will stay with her until she is ready. When your child is allowed to engage with a gathering on her own terms, she is much more likely to feel at ease and enjoy herself.
Ask for Experience Gifts
While it’s so much fun to see your child unwrap a huge toy, it can also bring sensory overload very quickly. If it suits your family, you can ask relatives to contribute to a different sort of gift this year, such as a zoo membership, children’s magazine subscriptions, or other special experience. This allows your child to enjoy the gift all year long while taking the pressure off of gift-opening at family events.
Take Lots of Photos
While it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays, try to take lots of photos of your child with relatives. Children change so much in a year, and it’s lovely to look back on how tiny they were at a particular time. This is especially true when you are spending time with elderly relatives. Take the time to capture these fast-moving periods of life. It is a great gift to your family to preserve the memories of your relatives together.
Go Light on the Expectations
Ultimately, the point of the holidays is to enjoy one another and celebrate. Sometimes that won’t look the way we hoped, and it can be very hard to let those expectations go. At the same time, we can think of it as a gift we give ourselves. When we look forward to being together and are willing to be flexible throughout the holidays, we will enjoy more and stress less.
The holidays are a beautiful and joyful time. And there is nothing like experiencing that wonder with your child by your side. As you prepare to take on the obligations and adventures of this most wonderful time of the year, follow these tips to help bring peace to your celebration. Facing the holidays with small children doesn’t have to be a chore. Are you looking for childcare that supports and encourages families? Please consider Legacy Academy, where we partner with parents every day to help children flourish.