Yes, it’s that time again when the magic season starts to turn into the manic season. So much to do, so little time, so much stress.
Our kids are getting more wired with anticipation, parents are getting anxious about whether Santa can come through this year (what do you do if your child only wants a pet monkey from Santa?) and the countdown is on for the big day.
This is a good time to remind yourself that the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, fun, and togetherness. Much of the stress we feel is self imposed.
Moms especially set high standards for themselves in terms of pleasing everyone else and often miss out on the good parts of the season. We want to choose the perfect gifts, have the perfectly decorated house, prepare the perfect meal and have the perfectly behaved children. No pressure there.
It’s helpful to decide what your real priorities are and to communicate those priorities to your partners, family and friends. You may find that they share your priorities as well and welcome the chance to mutually decide to take some of the pressure off.
One year I felt very overwhelmed by the pressure of choosing gifts for my sister-in-laws’ four children. I hardly ever saw them, didn’t know them very well, and could never figure out what to get them. So I decided to take a big risk, call my sister-in-law and say that I just couldn’t do it that year. I thought she’d be really upset. Much to my surprise she thanked me for being honest and said she felt terribly pressured trying to get gifts for my kids as well. So we decided to just wish each other’s families the best of the season and drop the gift giving from that year forward. What a relief!
Children too feel the pressure of the season, and they certainly pick up if you are under a lot of stress. With all the excitement, its easy for young children to get overwhelmed and fall apart just when you want them to be on their best behaviour. The sugary treats, travel, visitors, presents, shopping, changes in bedtime etc., all can become too much for young children.
So here are a few tips for avoiding “meltdowns”.
Remember that young children especially toddlers, thrive with routine and familiarity. They feel more secure and safe and more in control of their experiences. Take a close look at everything that is different about this time of year. See which daily routines you can continue; wake up time, familiar foods served in familiar dishes, songs you sing every day, quiet time just with you, nap times, reading favourite books, a daily walk together etc. The littlest familiarity can go a long way.
Good nutritious food helps stabilize moods, especially if there are lots of treats around. Keep the healthy food coming and don’t let your child’s blood sugar drop too much from over activity and not enough nourishment. A lot of “bad” behaviour can result from low blood sugar and hunger.
Be sure your child has some outdoor time — fresh air works wonders for calming babies, older children, and frazzled parents!
A little attention given to routines, nutrition, and outdoor activity, can make a real difference in your child’s (and your) holiday time. You want your kids’ memories to be happy.
I’m sure you know people who have memories of their parents being so stressed out around this time that they still dread the holidays. Let’s try to give our kids positive, joyful memories that they can pass on to their children.
Enjoy the season!
Judy Banfield has a master’s degree in early childhood education, is an internationally certified lactation consultant, and is the owner of downtown Nelson’s Mountain Baby retail store