November is already here and the holidays are coming right up. The holidays provide special opportunities to enjoy quality family time, focus on traditions, help those less fortunate and teach children about showing kindness and generosity toward others.
However, the holidays also bring stress and pressure for many families. Holiday stress can be caused by many things, including hectic schedules, impossibly long to-do lists for parents, major changes to routines (especially for children during school vacations), feeling pressured to spend money and challenging dynamics with extended families, to name a few.
Despite the stresses, we all want the holidays to be meaningful and fun for our children. Here are a few positive parenting tips that can help families get the most enjoyment out of the special holidays they celebrate:
Spend quality time with your children. The weeks leading up to the holidays are a wonderful time to connect with your child. Use this time as an opportunity to teach your child about the holidays you are celebrating. Find out what your child is looking forward to and ways in which they would like to help get ready for the holidays. For example, most children love to make gifts for family and friends. This presents an opportunity for your child to express their creativity. Let them help cook or pick a dish; let them decorate the house or wrap presents. Another way to connect with your child during this time is to tell them about your family’s traditions when you were a kid.
Make a plan for the holidays. Planning ahead with your family can make all the difference in reducing stress levels. Whether it is a trip to go shopping, preparing a special meal or attending a get-together, build in plenty of time to prepare for each activity. Take time with your child to involve him or her in the planning process and to discuss the plan. For example, work with your child to help you create special holiday dishes or have your child come up with ideas for the shopping list before you arrive at the store. Find out your child’s ideas for family gifts, set a budget and make plans for how shopping will happen.
Stick to your daily routine as much as possible. Children can easily become over-stimulated from all the activities and excitement surrounding the holidays – especially if there’s a lack of sleep and a lot of sugar involved. Help your child learn how to manage the changes and excitement by sticking to his or her daily routine as much as possible. This consistency and predictability not only makes the special occasions more special, but also helps children feel safe and secure because they know what to expect. Plus, it will make the transition back to “regular” daily life easier once the holidays are over.
Have realistic expectations of yourself and your holiday plans. During the holidays, it is easy to over-extend yourself and try to be all things to all people. Keep in mind that stress levels can rise when we over-commit ourselves or feel that we must please everyone. Try to simplify a little this year. Start by resisting the temptation to do it “all.” Talk with your family about what’s really important to them about celebrating the holidays, and then focus on doing more of those things. Remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect child, the perfect parent, the perfect gift or the perfect holiday – believing this can really give you the freedom to enjoy the holidays with your family!
Relax for a few minutes everyday. Take the time to breathe deeply, walk, listen to music or some other simple activity that is stress-free—even if it is just for a few minutes. It’s easier to look after a child’s needs if we also look after our own needs as parents. Set aside some “me” time to allow yourself to decompress.
This holiday season, give yourself an early gift—try using some of these parenting tips to reduce stress for you and your family. Even small changes can make a big difference.
These tips come from the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County. Triple P is scientifically proven and is the world’s leading positive parenting program. In addition to tips like these, Triple P also offers classes and one-on-one meetings to help parents handle everyday parenting challenges.
For more information about Triple P, visit triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or www.youtube.com/triplepsantacruzco. To find a Triple P class or practitioner, contact Stephanie Bluford at 831-465-2217 or firstname.lastname@example.org