Ooh boy, nothing derails a well-oiled toddler schedule faster than the holidays. Add in the glut of Christmas treats, generalized toy excitement, Santa anticipation, and time with extended family, and you’ve got a recipe for one cranky, hyped-up kid. But be not afraid – it is possible to survive this time of twinkling lights while enjoying the festive fun for yourself and your family. Just follow these 7 simple steps, and you’ll make it to the new year with your Christmas spirit intact.
1. Manage Christmas Expectations
Managing expectations is a big part of keeping kids happy this time of year. If this is the first Christmas your child really gets the holiday or you have an experienced 4-year-old ready to negotiate their list with Santa you can need to have conversations about what’s reasonable for a gift list. However you also need to set expectation beyond gifts. Talk about exactly how many treats you’ll allow at the neighborhood holiday gathering and why bedtime is still important on Christmas Eve. Mentally preparing your preschooler for limits will set them up for a better response when you eventually have to say “No, no, no.”
2. Manage You Stress by Staying Organized
I’m a big proponent of organization in times of chaos. Making a list always helps keep the stress down and you focused on goals. Whether it’s a list just for Christmas gifts, dishes to be cooked for holiday parties or one that encompasses all your to-dos, you’ll be better equipped to handle the inevitable surprises (or meltdowns) that arise. Having a checklist allows you to stay on track when unexpected things pop up. When you have your duties written down you can always return to them. Use cute stationary or a festive magnetic pad attached to your fridge to keep a list handy. Don’t be afraid to use the cloud for saved notes that you can access on the go. Lists will help you survive Christmas.
3. Keep To Your Kids Nap Schedule
Keeping to a strict nap schedule may not be feasible on Christmas Day (or even in the busy days leading up to it), but finding some time for rest/downtime/quiet is essential for everyone’s sanity. Older preschoolers who may be phasing naps out will also benefit from a little break, even if it’s just quietly coloring or playing in their rooms for an hour. Let your kids start naps as early or late as needed. Don’t forget the glory of the car nap on long drives to visit relatives.
4. Serve Healthy Snacks Instead of Christmas Treats
Whenever possible offer healthy snacks and sides to counter Christmas party cheese and cookie trays. Pack sliced apples, carrot sticks, seasonal citrus, raisins, or other healthy snacks and raw veggies for when you’re on the go. Offer to bring something full of fiber and vitamins to the party yourself. The adults will probably appreciate the digestive break too.
5. Give Your Kids Christmas Chores
Wherever possible, let your kids help in the Christmas preparation. Maybe they can hand you tape or gift tags when you’re wrapping. Give them small chores like dusting when you’re cleaning up before guests arrive. You could use the help, and they’ll love being involved.
6. Pace Yourself
Probably the most difficult thing to do during the holidays is slowing down. Find ways to take a break or just let stuff go where you can. Put a limit on Christmas gifts or start a family tradition of spending Christmas Eve in your pjs. Schedule down time for the entire family away from the chaos. Play a board game or sing carols together. If you don’t have to go anywhere on Christmas morning save time for the kids to actually play with their gifts. Open gifts throughout the day so there’s continual appreciation and smiles instead of a confusing flurry of wrapping paper and bows. Most toddlers are easily distracted so they’ll be more likely to remember the gifts you chose with such care if they’re doled out slowly.
7. Don’t Attempt to Control Everything
No one needs this advice more than me, but you’ll feel a lot better about holiday upsets and schedule changes if you can let go of the idea of controlling everything. Your aunts and uncles won’t care if you took a little holiday cooking help from the prepared foods aisle. Your kids won’t care if their gifts aren’t wrapped like a Pinterest project. The baby may throw a fit right during your 3-year-old’s Christmas pageant, but in a week or so the incident will just be a funny story you can tell. What’s important is spending time together and appreciating the love you share.
The small kids in your life won’t be small forever, so make sure you take time to appreciate them in all their messy, cranky, sugared-up glory.