The Tobin School

Tips for a Happy, Less Stressful Holiday for Your Children

Spending the holidays with your children is indeed magical: there’s nothing quite like seeing their reactions to all the lights, the special celebrations, the treats and the gifts. It can bring a smile to any parent’s face. But this time of year can also add extra stress to you and your family by disrupting bedtime schedules and wreaking havoc with sugar overload. Add a young child’s lack of understanding of time to all this holiday anticipation – and it can become too much.

That’s why we are sharing a few tips for you to help your children (and your family) ease the stress of the holidays:

  • Prepare for Visits with Relatives: If you are planning to visit with unfamiliar relatives and friends, you can help your young child feel more comfortable by showing them pictures in advance. It is also perfectly normal for your child to feel uncomfortable with too many hugs and kisses – your child will let you know about their comfort level.
  • Set Expectations: Let your children know what will happen before an event, for example: that you will need to eat dinner BEFORE gifts are exchanged, or that you expect them to stay sitting quietly during a religious service. Also be clear about what you expect for age-appropriate behavior – reminding them to use good manners, or that they can’t be rough with a family pet, etc.
  • Stick to Your Routines: When possible, try to keep some of your routines the same. It can be tempting to go to lots of events and let traditional mealtimes and bedtimes fall by the wayside, but your child might react to this overload of activities by turning into an overtired, cranky, or hungry person – no fun for anyone.
  • Find a Teachable Moment: With a focus on gift giving during the holiday season, you can help find ways for your child to think about others in need: letting them choose a toy to donate to a cause like Toys for Tots, or letting them help bake cookies for a neighbor are great activities that make them feel good about helping others.
  • Help Your Child Count the Days: Waiting for the holidays can be very hard for young children, who have a limited understanding of time. Here’s a fun project idea for you to do with your child to help make the waiting easier and more tangible when looking forward to a special visitor or holiday event: you can create a paper chain and tear off one ring for each day, or use a calendar and mark the days as you get closer.
  • Listen to Your Child’s Cues: It’s natural that the added excitement of the holidays can impact behavior (we sometimes get giddy as adults too). Listen to your child: you know them best, so you will know if that one extra activity could send them over the edge. Some children thrive with added noise and lights; others get scared and anxious.
  • Slow Down and Enjoy Some Family Time: With all the buzz and the added pressure to get a lot done this time of year, we think it’s okay to let some things go in favor of time with your family. Your children want to spend time with you – and this is a great time to step back and just be with them. After all, they will remember the magic of the season – and sometimes that magic is as simple as sitting all together as a family and playing a board game or cutting out paper snowflakes.

Here’s wishing all of you a wonderful and memorable family holiday!