10 Ways to Truly Enjoy Your Children This Holiday Season

Five young friends running outdoors smiling

The holidays often bring out the best and the worst in children. The break from school and traditional schedules wreaks havoc on sleep and soon rather than the angelic, bright-faced children you picture singing carols at Christmas time, you’re dealing with a small riot over who gets to eat the last cookie and who pulled turned off the television in the middle of the holiday special.

The Ideal Holidays

As most parents are already aware, children aren’t in tune with your desires and dreams for anything unless you clue them in. This includes the holidays. Unless you’ve taken the time to teach your toddler how to hold still and enjoy “The Night Before Christmas,” it’s likely he’ll be off picking ornaments off the tree before you even crack the cover of the book. To have a happy holiday season, you must prepare for it as you would anything else – planning, foresight and moderation are likely your best options for success.

1. Stick to the Schedule

If you expect your children to behave in their normal, decent manner, you must keep everything around them reasonably normal. A bedtime of midnight doesn’t mesh well with a child used to falling asleep around eight every evening. There are plenty of holiday activities to do during the day, so rather than keeping your children up late or getting off schedule, keep your normal routine and make your holiday fun fit into the parts of the schedule that were formerly occupied by school.

2. Keep the Big Picture in Mind

It is certainly fun to picture your happy family in matching jerseys sitting around a fire roasting chestnuts, but the little pictures you’ve created of the holiday season are not the right barometer to use in judging the holidays. You might never get a chance to sit and roast chestnuts, but if you get the whole family together to watch a fun Christmas movie, isn’t that just as good? The family is together, having fun and making memories. Let the details be flexible.

3. Stay Loose

You might be one who adheres to a rigid schedule day in and day out, but when you allot twenty minutes to see Santa but face a thirty minute (or longer) line, you’ll need to just surrender and accept that everything takes a bit longer during the holidays. More people are out and about and traffic will almost always be a nightmare. Be flexible about the small stuff and don’t let it get under your skin – this is the backbone of the holiday spirit.

4. Plan Ahead

Life with little ones means you can’t rush off for last minute gifts unless you plan on taking the whole crew with you through the crowds and chaos. Rather than putting yourself (and your children) through such madness, plan ahead. Make lists of what you need to buy and order it online, buy things on your lunch break, or schedule a sitter for a few hours on a weekend to be able to take care of shopping and other details that aren’t so kid-friendly.

5. Find Family Fun

Holidays are designed for family fun, but the families in question often don’t have a young toddler or an infant. When you are limited in your activities, you’ll just have to put more thought into how you enjoy your time together. Your fifteen-month-old might not be willing to sit down and watch ice skating with you, but letting him march through the snow or spinning him on his little padded bottom over the ice (well away from any skaters) is the kind of fun he enjoys, and therefore you enjoy by default.

6. Don’t Get Disappointed

Dreams of holidays are just that – dreams. You child can’t possibly know how much you dream of him running to his gifts and exclaiming with joy. He’s more likely to run to the tree and see if he can climb it before settling down to play with boxes and boys – the gifts in a pile behind him. Don’t upset yourself over behaviors you can’t control. His great-aunt might be irritated he didn’t immediately plop down on his new rocking horse, but if he thinks a shiny red bow is the best thing ever, let him enjoy his day – that’s what it’s all about. If you get disappointed and upset, it’s likely your mood will be reflected in your child as well.

7. Try to Stay Reasonable

It’s tough as the parent of a child who is enjoying the holidays for the first time, but staying reasonable about gifts. You might enjoy shopping for your little one, but he can only play with a certain number of toys at a given time. If his grandparents are going all out as well, you’ll soon wind up with more toys than a child can use. You must also be reasonable about opening those gifts. Young children have a very limited attention span. A few gifts at a time followed by a play session is practical for this age – he’ll likely lose control if he’s forced to open exciting new things only to have each one yanked away from him in lieu of another box.

8. Be Firm

As the holiday season picks up steam, you’ll need to be firm on many accounts. Your child might start to strain at his limits to stay up later, eat more sweets, and enjoy things normally off-limits. If this is the case with your child, decide what is reasonable and stick with it. You might also find yourself needing to be firm with family. Your little one is fun to be around, especially at Christmas time.

You might be pressured into going multiple places in one day or even flying around over the holidays to meet all of your obligations. Decide what is best for your little family and stick with it. If that means refusing to go anywhere but your own home, that’s fine, although you might issue an invitation to anyone who’d like to join you for the day.

9. Enjoy the Present

It’s a common phenomenon for parents to start dreaming of the future holidays, “It sure will be fun when Johnny’s old enough to…” While that might be true, don’t discount how much fun it is now. Enjoy the muments you have now, even if you can’t seem to sit down to enjoy them.

10. Make Exceptions

Finally, in direct contrast to earlier advice, you should also make exceptions to your normal routines during the holidays. Granted these exceptions should be few and far between as to make them very special. Let your child stay up late on Christmas Eve to prepare for Santa’s arrival. Make a trip to the candy store just this once since the holidays come just once a year. Whatever that big treat might be, go for it and enjoy it with gusto, you can go back to the norm soon thereafter.

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