You know the drill: “Gems,” the sugar crash, and “Are we there yet?” At this time of year, many kids reach an agitation high and sometimes develop surprising new behaviors that require your best vacation parenting skills.
“Parents should start with their own expectations,” says Susan Newman, PhD, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University in News Brunswick, NJ. Make your kids feel special every day.. “Some parents want to make sure their kids get everything they want so there are no tears. That’s an unrealistic goal. Parents, especially with young children, get lost in the noise.”
Newman advises against trying to please everyone. Someone—even an adult, like a parent, grandparent, or spouse—would be unhappy with something, big or small. But, as a rule, kids won’t either — and it’s the little things they’ll remember, like the time they spent playing a board game or teaching you their video games.
“Kids will model your behavior,” Newman says. “If you bake at a homeless shelter (and they help) or if you visit people in the hospital, they’ll remember that. Those patterns stick.”
“I love to cook with the kids,” says Benny Tobias, host of the syndicated radio show. Simple safety solutions, “In my house, every kid had a specialty, one was the cookie king, the other was a vegetable topping.” Over time, each family develops a list of favorite holiday cookies and sweets—repeated every year.
Many schools and nonprofit organizations have programs for children to give gifts or join charitable projects.
Kids can also help wrap or make gifts. “Kids need to see that everything doesn’t come from the store,” Newman says. Getting around also creates a sense of excitement and is a good time to talk.
Making gifts is also a good way to give children a deeper sense of the holidays. Going to the craft store, planning a project, gathering around things to make things is also a good time for parents to give kids extra attention.
Tobias recommends that children should be encouraged to make their own wish lists – but also to describe why they want to put a little thought into each item. That way, parents can gently adjust expectations before the fateful lid is unwound.
Start your own traditions
The holidays can be whatever you make of them. If you are not interested in the traditions bequeathed to you, start with your own.
Go to a nutcracker, lighting ceremony or drive around to watch the house lighting
- Winnie a snowman
- Open an Advent Card
- Attend a religious gathering.
- Let the kids choose the holiday music and the parents can dance with them
- Start a holiday meditation tradition
- Bring out the decorations, if you have a tree, and remember each one
Some other suggestions:
- Have the children responsible for videotaping or taking pictures. Let them meet everyone every year. Landscape photographer Franklin BY suggests starting with disposable cameras. Encourage taking several shots of each topic before giving advice. Send the children outside to take pictures of objects of one colour. It will give you some free time.
- Be flexible – If the kids want a traditional candy cane and gingerbread man tree, or a pink artificial tree, consider choosing what they like best.
- As a family, share your hopes for the coming year. Encourage your children to do the same.
Dealing with divorce
If your family has been affected by a divorce, death, or some major changes this year, think carefully about how you will handle the holidays. Insisting on making it the way it was before may not work. “Even if it just means eating dinner at a different time, try to differentiate between the past and the present,” Newman says.
Marilyn Coleman, PhD, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, suggests that divorced parents create a separate family-only holiday, one that isn’t Christmas or Hanukkah, so kids won’t feel guilty for taking the time. with one parent without the other. And prepare the visit schedule in advance, no surprises. Try not to over-schedule the kids, help your child shop for your ex, and be positive about the other parent. And don’t vie for the kid’s feelings by breaking the bank with a “big gift.”
Maintain a routine as best you can
Keep the kids’ bedtimes in place, even if relatives say, “Let them stay up, it’s vacation.” Newman says. People of all ages need sleep, she says, “Nobody wants to deal with it SleepsUnderprivileged children. You are harming them if you allow them to stay awake.”
Children should also not be allowed to binge on sugar and snacks. “Tell the grandparents to go easy,” Newman says.
Most of all, be inclusive—if children are included in an event, introduce them, train them to use appropriate manners, and if they need you alone for a few minutes, make time.
There is a bonus. If the kids were less stressed, you would be, too. This is the best gift ever.