If you have children in your life I’m sure they will have made you aware that holidays are here and an exciting time of year is approaching! You’re probably very busy with to-do lists, preparations and plans for a pandemic-proof end of year celebration with your family. Today I want to explore some simple, practical ways to stay sane during the holidays.
And even if you won’t be spending time with kids this year, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful when it comes to your own experience of the holidays. After all, I’m guessing you’re exhausted after this year of unpredictability, maybe processing grief, too. And perhaps feeling disappointed about the restrictions on this year’s festivities. A little planning can go a long way.
So, what will help you stay sane during the holidays?
I believe the key words here are kindness and connection.
Please start with kindness to yourself. This is not the year to enforce extra high standards or go the extra mile.
- Find compassion for yourself, recognising all you have done, while navigating unchartered waters.
- Prioritise some self-care, even if it’s just a sweetly scented bath with candles.
- And promise me you won’t forget to eat lunch because you’re focussed on the Christmas biscuits!
Your needs come first. Kindness towards yourself will help you be present and connect with your children – and your presence and connectedness are the most precious gifts you can give them.
To help you bring in more connectedness and have a happy and harmonious time with the kids, here are seven tips.
7 way to stay sane during the holidays
1. Involve your children in the planning.
Children love it when we listen to their ideas and let them contribute to the family plans. This really helps them to connect with everything that’s happening and brings enthusiasm and a sense of ownership into events. You can do this using a three part conversation:
- First, ask what’s important for them about the holidays and your family celebrations this year. What would they like to do? Use this step as an opportunity to be curious and learn more about what your children’s priorities are. Then appreciate all their ideas, however wacky, and show you’ve heard them by writing them down.
- Secondly, bring the elements that are important to you about the holidays, for example, a daily walk or screen time limits. Make this bit as as concise as possible. At all costs avoid asking for nice behaviour or any hint of lecturing (which doesn’t work – and actually undermines your authority.)
- Finally bring your ideas together in a plan for the days and weeks ahead. Assign tasks.
2. Create a flexible structure to your day.
This can be as simple as having an activity in the morning like baking/crafts/walk and games/screen time in the afternoon.
A rhythm to your day helps to create predictability, which supports children to orientate, settle back into holiday mode and connect with events.
3. Include a physical activity every single day.
Giving children (and let’s face it, adults too) the opportunity to connect with their bodies each day acts like a magic mood lifter! Ideally, there’s the daily walk or bike ride, with the additional benefit of fresh air.
But, if you can’t go out, at least clear the furniture and get everyone moving by having a family disco, organising a pillow fight or giving them a fun sensory experience like being rolled along the floor in a duvet.
4. Keep your children informed.
Let your children know what’s coming up the next day. This helps them prepare and makes it easier for them to interrupt their activities, when the time comes to get into the car or say hello to grandpa.
5. Free range activities.
It can be so much fun to involve children in craft or baking activities at this time of year. The key here is not to be invested in specific results. It’s best to avoid saying things like: “No, not like that!” or “Try and make it a bit neater!”
Keep reminding yourself that, for your children, it’s the activity that’s important and the opportunity to connect with you and the process. This is what brings the sense of fun and enjoyment, not the way it looks afterwards. You can start simply by saying, “Let’s have fun with the biscuit dough.”
6. Allow feelings.
The festive season is exciting for every child and feelings can run high, with dramatic peaks and troughs. Inevitably there will be disappointments. There always are. And my best advice is to allow your child to feel these difficult feelings. This way, they pass over more quickly.
Here’s how it works: If a child says something like, “He got a bigger present than me!” we’re often tempted to try to talk them out of their feelings by offering a logical counter-argument, such as: “It’s not about the size.” But what actually helps much more is to make space for them to actually feel their feelings, by empathising. In this case you might say,
“It sounds like it’s really important to you that you get the same-sized present as your brother.”
7. Permission to create one-to-one time.
Holidays are a fabulous opportunity for the whole family to be together. But, be aware that when you’re all together, your individual children often don’t get their connection needs met. You’ll know this is happening, because your child’s behaviour will deteriorate.
So, plan in a “mummy morning” or a “daddy afternoon”. You can also do this spontaneously, if your child is getting disruptive: Invite them to have some mummy time in another room to top up their love levels. Play a game or do aeroplanes together.
When children’s connection needs are met like this, they are more likely to be able to go with the flow when they return to the bigger group.
I hope this blog has inspired you with some fresh ideas for a fun, connected holiday with your children. I encourage you to write down two or three that you would like to include in your plans. Consider how you will implement them. Who do you need to talk to?
Finally, I wish you the happiest holiday to round off this year of years, and much joy in the New Year.
To find out more about my radically loving approach and how to put empathy into practice, click here to download my free guide Solve the Struggle with your Kids.
It shares 6 Wise Parenting Powers to help you raise a secure and happy family.
Radical love advocate | Nature freak | Perfectly imperfect mum
Oona Alexander is a parenting mentor who believes in radically loving your children to happiness and great behaviour.
She has 25 years’ experience working with children and families as a teacher, parent-and-child leader and parenting specialist. She’s a Pikler expert, trained parent educator and has a postgraduate qualification in Early Years.
Through her mentoring, speaking and workshops, Oona has shared her radically loving approach with thousands of parents across the UK and worldwide and supported them to raise children who are truly happy and naturally well-behaved.
Oona walks her talk and is proud to have a wonderful relationship with her teenage son, Orlando.
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