In case you didn’t know, the holiday season can feel a little like some sort of psychotic, sleep-deprived marathon when you have small children. Yanking kids up from naps, skipping meals and eating when they’d normally be asleep, constant stimulation, tons of sugar…all of the necessary ingredients for a dangerous science experiment. But since you’re here, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve experienced a taste of that and you’re looking for some advice.
The following is my list of things I’d like to incorporate into our holiday experience this year. I’d like to avoid as many instances of sleep deprived, hungry yet somehow on a sugar-high, wound up, about to snap at any moment young children as possible. This time of year is supposed to be special, and it’s even more important to your little ones. The more you can give them some semblance of their normal routine, the less stressed you all will be. Which will hopefully make for a more enjoyable holiday season!
You can be busy, you can have fun, and you can be tired. But what you don’t want is to feel frenzied, exhausted, rushed, and stretched too thin. Soooo…
Make sleep a priority.
Do your kids still take naps? Try configuring your day so they still squeeze in some shut eye, even if you have to shift it a little earlier or later than usual. And if your kids are used to an early bedtime, don’t be afraid to leave the party a little early. Don’t feel bad tuning out anyone that tries to make you feel guilty for leaving. They either a) don’t care that your life is going to suck later, or b) they don’t have kids and have no idea what they’re talking about.
Making sleep a priority is important for parents, too. How many of us have stayed up wrapping presents or scrubbing toilets or addressing Christmas cards until it’s so late that we can’t see straight? Put sleep on your to-do list, and stick to it.
Plan ahead for kid food.
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Even on a good day, dinner time can be a struggle at our house. So imagine a day in which dinner is being served in a new, exciting (distracting) environment, surrounded by desserts sitting out on the counter. A well-rounded meal is very unlikely, and skipping meals has a pretty major affect on our kids mood/behavior.
To avoid this situation, try one of two things. Either bring some foods that your kid is used to eating and incorporate those things onto their plate, or feed them healthy food before you leave the house. That frees you up at meal time, and if they decide to pick at their dinner plate or just have dessert, it’s no big deal!
Say no to some events.
This can be really hard. But it’s also hard to have every minute of your holiday season jam-packed with activities. It leaves very little room to just enjoy your time together. If there are events that you’re going to purely because you think you have to, maybe rethink going. It’s ok to say, “I’m so sorry we won’t make it, but otherwise we’d be busy every single day that week.”
Give yourself a little breathing room so you don’t totally burn out. Also, if your kids are seeming like they’re run ragged, that might also be a good time to cancel some plans and take a breather.
Schedule days for downtime.
Put at least a couple of days on your calendar this holiday season that are off-limits for making plans. Not only will you be guaranteed some much needed rest, but it’ll allow for full days of making pancakes, drinking coffee, enjoying all of your holiday decorations, and watching Christmas movies. Don’t get to the end of the year and look back, just to realize you didn’t have time for this. Once you have kids, it’s surprisingly easy to not make time for these kinds of days.
Use driving time as quiet time.
If there’s no way to keep your kids on a somewhat normal nap/sleeping schedule, use travel time as quiet time. No electronics or loud music, just some time staring out the window. And if they fall asleep, bonus! We all need some downtime to just zone-out, but kids especially need this. Look for opportunities like this when they can have some quiet rest.
This looks different depending on how old your kid is. Your baby normally sleeps in a bouncy seat or the front-pack? Bring it. Make that the FIRST thing you pack in the car. If your toddler always drinks milk before bedtime, bring some for the car ride home. Bring blankies, snacks, whatever you think your kid will desperately want while you’re gone, but pleeeeeease, don’t leave without bringing that favorite toy back home..
Let it go, let it go.
Did you hear Elsa singing that, too? Sorry. But really, it’s not going to be perfect. No matter how hard you try, there are going to be days when you don’t get enough sleep, your kids refused dinner, they didn’t nap, the pie burned in the oven, and you got home way later than you wanted. Even still, your kiddos are going to look back on these times like they were made of magic.
Have an extra cup of coffee, show yourself some grace, and enjoy it.
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