Managing Children and Having Fun During the Holidays
Schools are closed and the holidays are here! This might sound like a storyline for a perfect Hallmark movie, but we all know that in real life things are a bit different. A bit, especially when managing children during the holidays.
Holidays are full of precious memories to last a lifetime when we look back on them fondly and reminisce. Nonetheless, it took a lot of time and hard work from parents to make these memories possible. Preparation, travelling or hosting family members all give rise to challenging situations and can be stressful or overwhelming for the children and you.
For parenting done right on holidays, however, the recipe is to have structure and get the arsenal for what’s to come. Here are a few tips on managing children, having fun and creating a positive experience for everyone.
Plan activities ahead for children
As they say, “expect the best, but prepare for the worst.” Take some time to put together a list of activities your child can participate in during holidays. Be it baking cookies, crafting seasonal toys, decorating the Christmas tree or writing letters to Santa, make sure you include plenty of activities that you can bring up to distract your children so they don’t feel bored or restless. This will create amazing memories over the years, will stimulate their imagination and help you turn difficult situations into positive experiences for everyone.
Include children when planning holiday activities
Make sure to include your children while planning the holiday activities and allow them to have a voice. Children are full of energy and excitement during the holidays. They have a hundred questions for you, don’t they? Giving them something to do or allowing them to plan, engages their restless energy and lets their imagination free. You may be surprised at the ideas they come up with. If you have small children, explain to them the activities you have in mind, where you will be going, so they can have a sense of predictability and feel included in what’s about to come.
Prioritize self-care when managing children
Holidays can be challenging for everyone and not just for parents. There are a lot of expectations for everything to be perfect – from buying the perfect gifts to decorating the house. When you have children, the pressure increases – now you have to be a parent on top of all the other responsibilities you had before.
Know that if you are tired, stressed and overworked, you won’t be able to enjoy even the most amazing traditions or interact with others at your best self. Take time to pamper yourself. If you have family around, have them watch the children while you go to a spa or if you don’t have time for that, take a long, relaxing bath. Even the best parenting tips won’t work if your patience is running out and you are stressed and overworked.
Give up perfection
These days, there’s a lot of focus on material things – gifts, decorations, food, the best holiday spots, the best photo shots… (Getting them to pose doesn’t work anyway, so why stress!) Trying to make everything just perfect brings a lot of stress. Focus on balance and make it as fun as possible. Have the children help you clean and put the house to rights. Ask their help when packing if you are going out for the holidays. Allow the little squabbles and fights that always happens when children are around and give up the idea of perfect holidays. Perfection is overrated and years from now, you will only remember the beautiful little things that brought you joy – your children’s proud beaming faces when you appreciated the good job they’ve done, the fun you had shopping, the joy of baking cookies together, their smile when they opened their gifts… There’s beauty in the little things and looking back, you won’t remember the small annoyances that needlessly drove you crazy.
Practise Mindfulness when managing children
Be present and breathe. Abdominal breathing is an amazing tool to stay grounded and calm. No matter how your children behave, you can respond from a calm, centred place. This takes practice until you get the hang of it, but it’s a lifechanging tool to switch our nervous system from triggered to calm. Practice when you are calm – breathe into your abdomen, hold it for a few seconds then release it slowly. Then use this practice whenever you feel triggered, angry or stressed during the holidays.
Create a to-do list with everything you need to do and start checking off the list a few weeks before the holidays, so you don’t drive yourself crazy with lots of things you need to do when the time comes. Not being organized is the recipe for panic and chaos, and that’s exactly what you want to avoid. Learn to be flexible about it and have realistic goals – sometimes we don’t achieve everything we wanted to do and that’s okay!
Routines are good when managing children
Just because it’s the holiday time, does not mean your children don’t follow the same rules. This includes sticking to your child’s sleep and mealtime routines as much as possible. If they have holiday assignments, include these in their daily schedule to help them stay responsible and feel rewarded afterwards.
Good parenting is mostly leading by example
Children look up to you. As parents, you are their heroes. Adopt the behaviour you expect from your children. Don’t forget they mimic what they see and hear, and not what they’re told. This includes the way you respond to holiday stress; the way you behave around guests and the way you treat others.
Remember – when managing children, your goal is to anticipate and handle their behaviour in the best manner you can. Allow yourself to not be so perfect. Learn to see what works and readjust whenever needed. What matters is how present you are, how you respond with mindfulness and how you get to create those precious memories that will one day become stories to tell around the fireplace when the kids grow older. My dad still tells us the story about that one time when I was too sick to go Christmas carolling and how he convinced me to stay home by allowing me to eat as much candy as I wanted. It’s such a fun story to remember – and I was only 7! In the end, it’s these memories that children remember fondly and not how much work went into it.
If you are looking for help, whether for yourself or a loved one, our psychologists can assist in exploring underlying issues through therapy. Please visit our practitioners’ page to find out more, or call (03) 9820-5577 for an appointment or to make enquiries.
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