Blog: Nurturing Children Together

Managing the Holidays with Young Children

As we head into the break, we know many Allen Creek families will be celebrating winter holidays.  This can often involve trips, visits with extended family, and parties.  These times can hold feelings of warmth and connection, but can also be a time of frenzied busyness.  How can we best help our children and ourselves to manage the expectations of this season, while still preserving the joy in gathering with those we love?

The winter holidays can often be a time of “too much.”  Too much food, too many presents, too many new places and people, too much sugar, too many late nights, and too many disrupted routines.  What can seem fun to adults can quickly become overwhelming to children.  Overexcitement itself can be frightening to them, as it so quickly leads to feelings of being out of control.

So what can parents do to help?  When visiting family or friends--whether for an extended time or a party--it’s usually best to help children know what to expect while they are there.  Keeping an open dialogue with your children can better help them manage their emotions in situations outside of their normal routines.  Some things you can consider and discuss include: who will be there?  Will there be a lot of people your child does not know?  Are there different rules or expectations than at your own house?  How long will you be there?  What do you plan to do?  Will there be a space available where your child will be able to do his or her own sort of things?  It can be helpful to talk with your partner ahead of time about which elements of your child’s normal routine feel most essential to preserve during your visit. For example, does it matter to you that your child keeps a consistent bedtime?  Where do you want to stand firm and where can you be flexible? It’s valuable to have an idea of these shared priorities ahead of time, before encountering the expectations of your parents, in-laws, or siblings.  

While you are away, it is best to keep a close eye on your child, and to be aware of when he or she begins to become stressed or overwhelmed.  When you first notice these signs, take a little time together--can you take a walk? Read a book?  Color or draw?  Lie down for a bit?  During this downtime you can help put words to your child’s experience or to your own.  For example, ”I like these parties but I can get tired of talking to so many people.  It sometimes helps me to take a little break where it’s not so loud.” Or, “I noticed you were starting to have a hard time negotiating with your cousins about what to play next.  It can be difficult when there are so many kids with so many different ideas.”  It sometimes even helps to explicitly remind your children that they can seek you out for assistance as needed--”let me know if you need help or a break” or “you can find me in the kitchen if you need to check in.”   

Just as it’s helpful to keep a close eye on your children, it’s advantageous for parents to pay attention to their own emotional barometers as well. Looking ahead, what do you think will help you feel most “yourself” during the season?  Does it matter to you to keep up your exercise routine?  To try to stick as closely to your normal pattern of eating as possible?  Are you a person who needs alone time or do you thrive on being with other people? Are there ways to ensure you’re getting enough sunlight and enough sleep? When parents are able to take good care of themselves, it makes the overall season more enjoyable for everyone.

We wish you and your families all of the warmth and good feelings that go along with being connected to your larger community and to each other.  We look forward to seeing you again in 2017.