It’s no secret that the holiday season can be extra stressful for parents. Travel to and fro, new places and foods, so many gifts, too many treats, interrupted schedules and weighty expectations make for cranky carolers — and I’m not talking about the toddlers! This time of year, as merry and bright as it is, can test our parenting skills and tap our reserves. Here are 6 ways to keep yourself off the Naughty List.
1. Sleep Well. Nothing brings out everyone’s inner Grinch like lack of sleep. FOMO (fear of missing out) strikes hard this time of year but it’s perfectly okay to declare regularly scheduled bedtimes, naptimes and quiet times as sacred. If you find some holiday magic worth trading a little sleep for, see if you can make up for it later with extra rest times. Don’t forget to leave space in schedules and travel plans for downtime.
2. Eat Food. Drink Water. These are pretty basic, but sometimes in the excitement and hurry we forget. We remind our doula clients constantly, so I’m reminding you, right now – don’t forget to eat, drink and pee. And, while the adults in our lives are eagerly awaiting their favorite seasonal treats, kids can be overwhelmed by the seemingly exotic choices. If your small person rejects an entire plate of holiday delights in favor of nothing but a roll (with butter, naturally) remember that it’s only for one day. Have some tried and true snacks on hand for them and remember that calories don’t count when eating from the kids’ plates.
3. Travel Smart. Travel is hard on the whole family. Choose a departure time that maximizes naptime or bedtimes. Collect toys, treats and special activities to dole out at regular intervals during your trip. Never under estimate the power of snacks as entertainment. Don’t forget to build extra time into your schedule for potty breaks, snack breaks, leg stretching and plenty of nursing stops (because nothing kills the Holiday Spirit like a case of mastitis).
4. Choose Joy. No matter how you celebrate this season, celebrate with abundant JOY. Don’t do things because you tell yourself you should, because you really ought to, because it’s what you’ve always done before or because, well, Pinterest. Choose the activities, events and messages that bring your family meaning and happiness and let the rest go. Let it gooo, let it goooooooo (you saw that one coming, right?). You have permission to release or pause holiday traditions that don’t serve your family right now. You can always revisit an idea next year.
5. Be Quiet. Be Here. Save space in all the Doing for a little Being. Maybe spend some extra time outside to revel in the qualities of the season. There’s nothing quite like a trudge in the snow (if you have any) to bring a sense of natural reverence. I find that light, especially fire, helps us center and steep in the now-ness. This is the perfect time of year to brush up on your Silent Night by lighting some candles, plugging in the tree or tossing a log in the fireplace for some reflection as a family on the past year. It might help little ones join in with a feeling of ownership by letting them set time limits on quiet stretches. Whatever you do, do it with your whole body. See, hear, touch, taste and smell, and steep in the moment.
Everyone you meet right now is a little stressed, a little harried. There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, clothes to choose, photos to take, meals to cook (and clean), parties to attend, in-laws to host, and they don’t always go according to plan. We can interrupt anxiety and overwhelm with gratitude and compassion both for the small people in our lives and all the big ones.