Holiday-time parenting got you down? It’s a lot of work, managing kiddos during this potentially chaotic time of year. Do your best to withdraw from perfectionism and power struggles, and don’t let whining win out. Here are some tips to help you get back to basics.
• Children won’t remember what presents they get each year as much as the memories you make together. Bake and decorate cookies using sprinkles and cookie cutters. Go out and create angels in the snow. The more “perfection” you can let go of, such as in your holiday decorations and cooking, the better.
• Your child needs ways to participate in family activities, and will get into mischief if he’s shoved to the sidelines without jobs to do. Can he help set the table for the big holiday dinner? Pick out toys to share when his cousins arrive?
• Tasks on shopping trips also help keep kids from melting down. I recently spotted this sweet sight at the grocery store: two young sisters pushing their own cart and studying their own shopping list, while dad took care of the rest of the list. They come back to dad, so proud, and he tells them they did a great job – except the huge tub of margarine they picked out “might be a little big.” Let your child help you count things, like apples, if she’s too young for her own cart. Bonus: If a child has shopping tasks to perform, he’s less likely to be begging for junk food.
• Listen to your kids. Be ready for such questions this time of year as: “Is baby Jesus a girl or a boy?” and “There is only one Santa Claus, right?” Answer questions at age-appropriate levels without overexplaining.
• The advice “do not negotiate with terrorists” also applies to pint-sized people. Most kids – and adults – do not function well when they’re backed into a corner with no way out. Give choices whenever possible. If your child is hungry, tired and crying, do not even try to talk to him while he’s so off-kilter.
• Read their needs. If your child is jumping on the furniture and you don’t want him to, just saying “no” isn’t enough. He’s probably telling you he needs to run around outside and let off steam, even if it’s dark and cold outside. Being cooped up, home from school, can breed lots of excess energy, so figure out a way to let your child get the wiggles out.
• Figure out a daily routine and stick to it, even during winter vacation. When your child knows what to expect, you’re more likely to have a smoother day with less whining. Put a chart on the fridge with little pictures that map out the day’s activities.
• Research shows that kids who develop social skills such as cooperation, assertiveness and empathy can achieve more academically. While the holidays can be an excellent time to demonstrate and teach these traits, do your best to weave them into your daily comings and goings year-round.
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