Inside:Learn 6 Ways to be mindful of your child’s needs through the chaotic holiday season to minimize meltdowns and maximize fun, joy, and love.
Putting up Christmas decorations and trimming the tree is a day I look forward to with eager anticipation every year.
Excitement runs high and expectations of laughter, Christmas music, and shiny ornaments float through my mind.
But you know what they say about expectations…
This year our ‘decorate the tree day’ played out in a similar fashion to those in years past. After about an hour of impressive cooperation and untangling of knotted lights, there’s a shift in our little people.
Impulse control gives way to tiny fingers grabbing breakable things a bit too fast and small mouths beginning to unleash sharp words when siblings grab at favorite ornaments.
When the messiness of raising kids intersects with the messiness of holiday decor, the past has shown that either my husband or I will follow suit, joining our children in a state of negativity and reactivity.
Voices are raised, facial expressions are made and little spirits get crushed.
The next thing we know we are standing in the office, frustrated and overwhelmed, trying to re-group on our goals and priorities for the day and a little dumbfounded on how we seem to get into this same exact scenario every year.
Being a mindful parent through holiday stress
Holiday stress is the one ‘gift’ that parents can rely on getting each year whether we like it or not. The thing is, the holidays impact our kids too. Emotions are running high, sleep is usually running low and much of the daily predictability your child rely’s on goes out the door.
While the fact remains that as an adult you have our own stress to navigate through, you are a fully grown elf and are expected to be able to take care of yourself. Your child, on the other hand, is still growing themselves and will need lots of loving guidance during a time of unpredictability and excitement.
Here are 6 ways parents can help their child have the best holiday ever by being mindful of their developmental and emotional needs.
1. Realistic expectations. Just like my lofty tree decoration ideals unraveled my holiday spirit, expecting holiday events to play out a certain way will often not work in our favor. Your child picks up on your tension-laden expectations and projected ideals and will likely unknowingly sabotage your hopes and dreams for the perfect holiday outing (just ask any parent who’s watched their kid pick their nose or hold their privates during the holiday concert). Your child is still going to make mistakes during the holidays, no matter how perfectly they are dressed.
2.Consistency. With routines flipped on their heads and the different sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays, your child is prone to anxiety and overstimulation. Holiday events are fun and exciting, but maintaining predictability in between these events is key to allowing all parties to enjoy themselves and not be completely overwhelmed.
3. Play. You know how you need that quiet time at the end of the day? The time you stay up too late for, watching Netflix, catching up with your partner or reading your new book? Unstructured free play is your child’s Netflix.
It how they recharge, work through their emotions and learn how to solve problems. Allowing plenty of downtime in between outings to great Aunt Edna’s and The Nutcracker will increase the odds you’ll be bringing a happy and relaxed kid.
4. Preparation. I’m not referring to hours logged wrapping gifts or online shopping, but to giving your child a heads up on the agenda for the day and expectations for events and outings. We parents often assume our child knows the same stuff we do, but this is not the case as we are old (sorry) and they are brand new. The chances of your child staying cool, calm and collected go way up when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
5.Time. While it does feel that we have less time during the holidays, time is always a matter of priorities. Connection is a basic need for your child and if they are getting your holiday leftovers they are likely going to let you know through negative behaviors. Taking even 10 minutes a day to meet your child where they’re at and fully engaging with them, will not only lead to a stronger relationship but also to improved cooperation and listening.
6.Patience. I for one am grateful when my husband is able to tame my holiday irritability by putting his hand on my shoulder and letting me know I am channeling a certain holiday villain who resides in Whoville (why did I volunteer to make Santa cookies for the classroom again?).
Our child deserves the same patient guidance and grace during the busy and chaotic holidays. It’s a great time to remember that we’re all human and doing the best we can, lifting each other up in kindness, not criticism.
Being a mindful parent allows our holiday values to shine
Standing in the office, we knew exactly where we had gone wrong. It was the minute we started putting ‘the stuff’ ahead of the people. Or more precisely, the ornaments ahead of the hearts of our children.
Related Read >> 50 Family Bonding Activities for the Best Christmas Ever
We talked through how to set limits around breakables in a way that was firm but also laden with kindness and respect, as opposed to criticism and shame.
We asked the kids for a do-over and they were quick to forgive and jump right back into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the day was a hot mess of Christmas crafts and decor, and inevitably something ends up broken, but the most important thing was that everyone’s hearts remained intact.
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