Your five-year-old is so hyped up on pre-holiday adrenaline that he’s practically swinging from the chandelier.
Your eight-year-old insists on rejigging her wish list on a daily basis.
And it’s your turn to host the big family get-together this year . . .
’Tis the season to be harried, particularly if you’re a parent of young children.
While there’s no surefire way to eliminate all the stress associated with this fun but crazy time of year, there are some practical things you can do to bring down the stress level at your house, at least a little. And, at this time of year, that certainly counts as a victory in my books. How about yours?
Celebrate the gift of routine
You’re going to be doing a lot of celebrating during the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to celebrate the gift of predictable schedules and regular routines. Sure, it seems like a lot more fun to throw routine out the window at this time of year—to skip naptimes, let bedtime slide, and grab meals on the fly as you bounce from one holiday commitment to the next—but in the end, that’s a recipe for tired and stressed-out kids and a mega-grumpy you.
While you don’t want to miss out on all the fun to be had at this time of year, try to sandwich the fun in between big, thick slices of regular routine.
Make sleep a priority
Keep tabs on the number of evening commitments and try to steer clear of too much pre-bedtime excitement. If your child is too excited to wind down at the end of the day, suggest an early after-dinner bath. (The drop in body temperature that occurs after a bath helps to bring on feelings of sleepiness a couple of hours later. Not only do you end up with clean kids: you end up with sleepy kids. It’s a total win.)
And remember that your kids will find it easier to settle down when bedtime comes around if they’ve had plenty of physical activity during the day. (Kids between the ages of five and 11 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.)
Pay attention to what your kids are eating
Balance off servings from the holiday food group (think candy canes and gingerbread) with foods that have a bit more staying power (think protein and complex carbohydrates). If you’re attending a lot of holiday potlucks with family members and friends, offer to bring a veggie tray and a big tub of hummus, or another healthy menu item that your kids love enough to want to devour. That way, you’ll know that there’s at least one healthy option waiting as they cruise the buffet.
Balance off a busy day with a quieter day
This is particularly important if you’re raising a child who is introverted and shy. Being around people 24/7 is really tough—and very draining—for a child of this temperament.
But even kids who love activity and who thrive on a lot of stimulation can benefit from a bit of downtime. (The line between being stimulated and over-stimulated is paper-thin.)
Prevent your child—and yourself—from morphing into a hot holiday mess by making time for quieter activities, like reading books together or curling up on the couch to catch some of your favourite seasonal specials on TV.
Give yourself time off for good behaviour
It’s easy to get so caught up in meeting the needs of other people that you forget to take time for yourself. It’s an all-too-common trap for busy moms, particularly at this extra-busy time of year. Vow to sidestep this rut, starting today.
Think of one small thing you could do to nurture yourself. Bundle up and take a walk around the block. Light an eggnog-scented candle and hop in the tub. Or schedule a phone call with a friend.
Don’t feel guilty for taking this time. Everyone deserves time off for good behaviour.
Besides, you’ll actually have more to give to other people if you take good care of yourself. Or, to put it another way, by being good to yourself, you’re actually being even better to your family. You’re giving them the gift of a happier, healthier you.
Ann Douglas is the author of the bestselling Mother of All series of parenting books. Her new book, Parenting Through the Storm: How to Handle the Highs, the Lows, and Everything in Between, comes out in January 2015.
Cover photo by Alexandre Normand