Oftentimes, we have high hopes for the holidays. We want to go to all places and do all the things. Just imagine it now – Mariah Carey setting the tone as you are sipping cocoa by the fire, and your little ones are quietly crafting at the table. It will be cozy, magical, and perfect, right?!
If you have young children, you are probably laughing by now. Hopefully, you are still reading!
The not so happy side of the holidays.
The holidays are a tricky time for families with young children. You may even experience an increase in non-desired behaviors. This is because they thrive on routine, and the holidays are quite the opposite. With the added events on the calendar and pure excitement of the season, children may struggle to understand expectations and find it more difficult to manage their emotions – a skill that they are just developing as it is.
How can I celebrate while supporting my child?
As someone who wants to dive headfirst into the tinsel and cocoa, I struggle with pausing and asking myself, “Is this best for my toddler?”
The truth is the best thing we can do for our children during the holiday season is to maintain routines. Does this mean that you can’t attend your next holiday party or go see the lights at the zoo? Absolutely, not! It just means that we need to be mindful of our schedules and intentionally make time for rest.
As a former teacher and now parent, I have picked up a few helpful ideas along the way:
Try a cozy corner.
When feelings are just too big to handle, a cozy corner gives your child a space to go and find their calm. Recently, I created a cozy space for my toddler. We are teaching her that this is a safe place when she is upset. Here, she can snuggle stuffed animals, read a book, or play with a pop-it toy to help her calm down.
Set clear expectations.
This is particularly helpful when doing art, baking, and other activities. Before you start that special craft, decide what they can do, then clearly communicate your expectations. Focus on what they can do, and use phrases like, “We paint on the paper” or “First, I add the butter, then you can mix.” I recently painted wooden ornaments with my toddler. Before we started, I showed her where to paint – sometimes setting clear expectations looks like modeling.
Worried about a mess? Check out Process Art Tips and Tricks.
Create a visual schedule.
Visuals are a powerful tool for young children, especially when little ones are exhausted. I recommend starting with a schedule for bedtime. Even if you have been doing the same routine for years, a visual schedule can make the hardest of nights a little more manageable.
Give a task.
Young children of all ages are experimenting with independence. When we ask our children to help, they have opportunities to build self-confidence! A task can look like putting dishes away or cleaning up a play space, but it can also be something festive like adding decorations to a holiday table.
Create “yes” spaces.
Young children hear the words “no” and “stop” multiple times a day. They can easily get frustrated and start to ignore directions. I encourage you to create spaces where they can do all the things they need to do. Ask yourself, “Where can they throw?” “Where can they play with decorations?” “Where can they make a mess?” In my home, it is challenging to set these spaces. I try to use visuals to help, but more often, it is me who must adjust my expectations and embrace the fact that I have a busy toddler.
Remember that you matter, too!
Lastly, you have permission to stop, rest, and take care of you. The most important thing you can do to support your children during the holidays is to make time for your wellness. Over the years, I have learned that my wellness matters. The holidays can be stressful for adults but for very different reasons, including family dynamics, time-management, financial stressors, and more. Whatever your reason, we have resources to help you shift prioritize self-care.