The holidays are supposed to be fun, fun, fun, with everyone awash in traditions, laughter and loving family. The truth is that it’s often difficult to enjoy making those beautiful sugar cookies, frosted just perfectly when your child is having a meltdown on the kitchen floor! The holidays can be full of stressful situations for your children, so The Center for Advanced Pediatrics is here to give you the tools to navigate the season – and have the happiest holiday possible.
Let them help.
Put your toddlers to work stirring cookie dough or decorating the lower part of the tree with unbreakable ornaments. Making them a part of the preparation helps learn your traditions and respect them – and gives them a role in all the action!
Teach them the joy of giving and to receive graciously.
Teach your child the joy of generosity and giving from the earliest years. Encourage your child to create gifts for those they love. Ask them to think about what their loved one likes and dislikes, and what type of gift makes the most sense for this person.
Receiving graciously is very important. Explain to your child that they will receive gifts they don’t want or don’t like from well-meaning givers. Stress that these gifts were carefully chosen and that it’s important to be kind, even when they open a gift they already have or don’t like. Give them examples of what to say, such as “Wow! Thank you so much for thinking of me and picking this out for me!”
Keep to your routine as much as possible.
Holiday dinner is at 3 pm, but your child is used to eating lunch at 1pm and dinner at 6. Give your child lunch as usual, explain how they will sit with the family sharing a meal later, and then save a plate of food for them to enjoy at 6. Schedule activities around nap times and bed times to ensure your child is in the best state, both mentally and physically, to enjoy these events.
Give them a heads up on everything little thing.
Talk to your child about everything on your holiday schedule and what is expected of them at each event or activity. Explain how they should behave at religious services, performances and at gatherings with relatives. Take them through dinner table manners and polite greetings and goodbyes.
Respect their decisions about physical contact.
At the holidays, many relatives will request – or demand – hugs and kisses. Tell your child beforehand that you understand if they don’t want those hugs and kisses, from one particular person or from everyone. Never make your child feel guilty for refusing physical contact. Support your child’s decision out loud, clearly and consistently, using a phrase such as “Riley is not in the mood for hugs today. Would you like to sing a song with her instead?”
Above all, remember they are children.
Make sure that holiday clothes are as comfortable as possible, especially for children who are sensitive to scratchy lace or stiffness. Feed them healthy snacks all day long, to keep their tummies feeling fine. Understand that sitting still for extended periods of time just isn’t possible, and give them the opportunity for unfettered physical activity as much as possible. When your toddler begins crying, whining or otherwise misbehaving, understand that this is their way of communicating discomfort and seek a solution, rather than disciplining.
By involving and respecting your child while keeping things as routine as possible, the holidays will be merry and bright for your whole family!
Is your child suddenly ill or injured during the holidays? Call us at 203-229-2000 for an urgent appointment. We are here to help!