How to cope with kids at Christmas
The holidays are coming, and so are the headaches - the shopping, the visitors, the parties and the chaos. Then there's the expenditure and the fuss. Whatever and however you celebrate, the holidays can be the most stressful time of the year, and while many are making merry, you're left counting the cost of the season - and it's not just about the expense of it all.
And then there's the kids. It's important not to get so carried away that you forget the needs of your younger family members at a time of year that can be very exciting but also very confusing for them.
With kids at the forefront of the celebrations, Dr. Fran Walfish, the author of The Self-Aware Parent, has a handful of tips to help you make the most of the holidays, and she insists family togetherness is key.
"Contrary to popular belief, what kids love most about Christmas and Hanukkah is not the gifts, it is the bonding and coming together of family," she says. "We do not remember what we 'got' as a child for the holidays, but we do remember family dinners, parties, and unity."
Dr. Fran also warns against unrealistic expectations: "Accept the fact that anxiety and stress rises during the holidays. Be realistic. Watch out for any personal wish to make the holidays a perfect, magical time. You will be setting yourself up for a huge let down. The more relaxed and flexible you are the more calm and happy your child will be."
And the good doctor, who is a leading Los Angeles child behavioural psychologist, insists routine and structure with help you navigate the winter break as kids’ energy levels "escalate".
"Structure calms children down," she adds. "Keep bedtimes and mealtimes the same. So much else is changed during the holidays, including visiting relatives, travelling and over-indulgence in food and gifts."
And be present for your kids or the children of friends and relatives.
"Expect kids to have fun and occasionally err," Dr. Fran explains, "and sit close to the child who needs extra guidance and support to handle the over-stimulation of added noise, visiting guests, and fine china at the dinner table."
Dr. Walfish also suggests the holidays are the perfect time to promote "gratitude and appreciation", adding, "Teach your children to genuinely thank the giver of a gift. If your child makes comments like, 'I don’t like that', or, 'I wanted something else', have your child correct it right then and there. Correcting is not an apology. It’s restating your comment in a respectful way.
"Teach kids to react politely if they are disappointed with the gift they receive. Teach empathy with kindness by helping your child imagine what it feels like to see a disappointed face on the receiver of the gift."
But, above all, maintain a sense of humour and don't take the holidays so seriously.
"Don’t sweat the small stuff," Dr. Walfish concludes. "Ask yourself what difference will this make one year from now?"