Holiday concerts, travel, school vacation, parties, relatives visiting, late nights, too much sugar = holiday stress! Messed up routines and and holiday overwhelm can really turn our families upside down. The busyness and overwhelm at this time of year can bring out the worst in our children and in us as parents. If you want to enjoy the holidays not just survive them, here are 7 tips to help you. (Watch the original video version of this post here.)
Be a mama bear.
Protect your family’s space and schedule. You don’t have to do it all and you don’t have to accept every invitation. What do you want to do? We are bombarded with Pinterest and Instagram holiday magic. These storybook celebrations don’t automatically make the holidays meaningful- and you could really wear everyone out trying. What things mean most to you?
If it’s not a big YES! It is no, thank you.
Managing yourself is both taking care of yourself and taking responsibility for your feelings.
As a parent, you are driving the train. You set the tone for your family. If you’re not happy, no one is. If you’re stressed out and overwhelmed- guess what? Your kids will be as well. What do you need to do to take care of yourself? Enough sleep? Take things off your to-do list? Do it!
Even if you are pretty good at taking care of yourself, there will inevitably be times that you are frustrated, stressed or upset. That’s okay! Just try not to act when you are upset. Take a minute to calm down before you lose it or give some crazy threat or consequence. Remind yourself that it’s not an emergency. Stop-Drop-Breathe. (Stop what you’re doing, drop your agenda- just for the moment, and breathe to calm yourself down.)
Recognize that your child is doing the best they can.
Children want to be good. They want to do the right thing. If your child could do better they would do better.
If you can remember that they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time, you will be able to respond with a lot more emotional generosity and empathy.
Lower your expectations.
Your kids WILL melt down, act up at a get together, and fight in the back seat. We often struggle because of the gap between what our children “should” be doing and what they are actually doing. Yes, your child should be able to sit nicely at dinner. But apparently at this moment they can’t manage it. Let go of the “shoulds.” They are acting like kids because they are kids.
Unpack the big feelings.
If your child is being difficult, acting out, or melting down every 5 minutes, it could be because they have a full emotional backpack. When we have a lot of big feelings we can’t process in the moment, we hold them in our bodies (our emotional backpack.) When the backpack gets full, the feelings come spilling out.
Empathize with your child and help them cry. Welcome all their emotions, even if you don’t agree. Your child needs you to acknowledge and empathize with their feelings before they can get over it. If you can help your child process all the big feelings (especially at this time of year!) they will be more cooperative and less prone to meltdowns.
Scaffold your child.
Scaffolding is supporting your child to meet your expectations. Children often regress as a response to overwhelm. It will pass. They might need extra help right now. If your child asks for help getting dressed but you know they can do it themselves? Take this opportunity to nurture them. Offer to help. Enjoy it. They will be grown up before you know it.
When all else fails: “I think we both need a hug.” That sweet connection is what we are here for and why we want to have the holiday joy and memories in the first place. Get playful. Get laughing. Delight in your child. Take a few minutes to smile and give them a loving touch.
I’ve adapted this from a quote by Maya Angelou:
Your child won’t remember what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.
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Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 11, 14, and 17). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Find her at sarahrosensweet.com
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