Ahhhh… the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year… right?!
Hmmm… did I sense a hesitation there?
Why would you hesitate?
What exactly isn’t so wonderful about the glorious time that is the holiday season? (Go ahead, make a mental list.)
The truth is, the holidays have this surprising ability to contain both moments of pure joy and moments of pure stress. The joy of time spent with family and friends, sharing meaningful traditions with our children and of course the delicious food. The stress of child care when school is out, travel, money, family drama and overloaded schedules that change every day.
Our sweet little children try their best to follow along during the highs and lows of the holiday season, but they too can feel the impact of the hustle and bustle that it can become.
The answer isn’t all that revolutionary (sorry!).
Create a calendar. This should be a fun family calendar that everyone is a part of creating and that everyone can understand. For little ones, be sure to include pictures that make sense to them. “What can we put on the calendar to help us remember that it’s time to go to grandmas?” Include a daily schedule that you can review together in the morning, as well as a weekly calendar that helps them understand what’s coming in the week ahead. Check out family calendars and visual schedules on Pinterest for some ideas of how this might look. Don’t forget to talk about the schedule and calendar daily – the predictability reduces uncertainty and stress!
Meet their needs. Before you leave the house, take inventory – should I bring a snack, have they used the bathroom, will we run into nap time? Make sure you can meet their physical needs while you are out and about.
Reinforce expectations. Talk with your child about what you expect of their behavior before you get where you’re going. You know your child, anticipate the challenges and explain what the appropriate behavior in the setting would be. “What are the rules when we are at grocery store?” Go ahead and have this conversation every time and for each place that you are going! The consistency and clarity will help them know what they should be doing.
Stick to your normal bedtime. This isn’t always easy. Make a plan and make it a priority on weekends and time off of school.
Create and cherish family traditions. Focus on the joy of the holiday season. Plan time to consistently connect with family in a meaningful way. You might have family game night, plan and make a recipe together, read a book together and have a family book club, have a family slumber party, volunteer together or come up with something that makes sense for the interests of your family. Give everyone something fun to look forward to and add it to your calendar all year long!
Researchers say 24 percent of Iowa residents live in child care deserts, places where child care is scant. That figure jumped to 37 percent in rural areas.