Thinking about all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning that needs to be done in preparation of holiday get-togethers can be overwhelming. Breaking the holiday “to do” list into small, manageable steps can help ease stress. Here are some additional tips for managing stress this time of year.
Explain to children what the schedule will be and what your expectations are. “When we get to Grandma’s house, say hello to everyone. After you say hello, you can play with your cousins and friends until we say it’s time for dinner. You will sit at the table until all the children are finished eating, and then you can play again until it is time to open the presents.” Set a reasonable budget before you go shopping for gifts and food. This time of year can be a great opportunity to teach children about the value of money and how to spending money responsibly.
Children are often honest and impulsive. They may not mean to do so, but may hurt someone’s feelings when they open a gift and express disappointment. Prepare your children to handle these situations. “You may be getting presents from different people today. No matter what they give you, it is so nice that they thought of you and got you a present. They may not have known exactly what you wanted, but you want to let them know that you are thankful they thought of you. Even if you don’t like the present, smile and look at them and say “Thank you for my gift.” Role play and practice.
Think about things that you can do ahead of time to help the holidays run smoothly. Plan events around times that are least disruptive to a child’s schedule to avoid their becoming overtired and cranky. Set specific days and times for your activities including cooking, baking, shopping, and visits. Don’t be a hero. Include partners and children in cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Children will feel more invested in the traditions if they have a role in them. Involve them in choosing what will served and in preparing the food. Traveling with children can be challenging. Plan ahead with games, activities, and crafts to entertain children on long trips.
Let yourself off the hook and know that it is okay to say “no.” You do not have to attend every get together to which you are invited. If you are asked to be involved in things you do not have time for, it is better to say no than to become resentful and overwhelmed.
Be kind to yourself and remember that things do not have to be perfect. Be realistic about your children’s behavior. This is an exciting day that often involves exceptions to typical routines and behaviors. There can be a lack of predictability. Set reasonable expectations as to how long your children can sit at a dinner table or can wait for presents. Stay present in the moment and share in the joy of your family versus stressing over the dishes that need to be cleaned or the timing and pacing of the courses of food. Accept that changes, such as a child’s interest level and participation, can happen as children get older.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP Credentialed Parenting Educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher. Learn more at www.eacinc.org/long-island-parenting-institute.