’Tis the season, the most wonderful time of the year, but alas, the most stressful. The shopping, the traveling, the baking, the entertaining— if it can make your head spin, think about how it might affect your little ones. Read on for tips for keeping the peace this time of year.
Expectations: keep it real
and stick to a budget
Resist the urge to rack up a ton of debt this year and stick to a realistic budget. Before shopping, get a clear idea of what you can afford to spend, and stick to it. Shopping online can make it easier not to overspend while eliminating the hassle of enormous crowds and lines. Explaining your financial limits to the kids is also a good idea.
Heath and Nicole Woodward, Toledo parents of three, offer advice on managing children’s expectations. “We are upfront and honest with our kids about what we can do,” Heath said. “We’ll have them make realistic lists of what they want and choose from those items depending on our budget.”
Gifts need not be monetary, either. Psychologist Dr. Rebecca Alperin of Psychological Resources, Toledo, said, “It’s nice to take this time of year to encourage children to do something nice for someone else, in the spirit of the holiday. For instance, taking a treat to an elderly neighbor, donating some toys to a children’s hospital or shelter, or donating items to an animal rescue organization.”
Stress-less holiday travel tips
If you travel over the holidays, the key to a successful trip is preparation. Keep your kids involved by giving them their own responsibilities. Renu Kielhorn, a Sylvania mom of two, has a few tips. “My kids each have a rolling backpack they pack themselves to take to the airport with books and toys to keep them busy on the plane.”
For cartrips, Kielhorn suggests being flexible and allowing time for extra breaks to let kids burn energy. Be sure to pack the iPad, books and let kids pick a podcast or radio station to listen to.
“I go to the dollar store and pick up new toys for the kids to open while we travel. Playdough is a good one to keep younger kids busy, and we like activity books like mazes, puzzles, and word searches for the older children,” said mom of three Amy Choksey of Sylvania.
If you’re flying, prepare your kids for what to expect at the airport: crowds, lines, security check, etc. Be sure to check your airline’s guidelines on what is okay to bring on board for younger kids; most are okay with reasonable amounts of formula/milk and baby food. Be sure to pack an easily accessible change of clothes for each family member. If you’re able, splurge on an extra seat for your infant. It’s so much easier (not to mention more comfortable and safer) if your little one is in her own car seat.
Save the drama
for your mama
Travel can be hard on kids, so as parents we must try to keep any additional stresses to a minimum. “Maintain your child’s schedule and routine as best as possible (sleep, meals, etc.). They may need some downtime from all of the activity and events,” said Alperin.
If you’re staying with a friend or relative, be mindful of their routines and schedules, and try to keep the chaos to a minimum. Be gracious: contribute and help wherever you can, teach your children to be respectful, and clean up after yourselves.
Navigate tricky family dynamics cautiously. If it becomes difficult to keep the peace with everyone under one roof and you or your children are stressed, staying in a hotel might be a good idea.
And remember, just staying home and celebrating with your family unit is always an option. Mother of two Amy Barricklow of Sylvania recalls, “We took the kids to my parents’ house when they were 2 and 4 and my father said to me, ‘You need to make Christmas your own holiday. Have it in your own home. Don’t bring the kids here.’” Barricklow said, “It really is about your immediate family, so we spend time with just our family and meet up with other family later.”