If you’re like me, you may already be traveling to stay with friends and family for the holidays. The season is full of joy and excitement, especially for the kids, but it can also be chaotic since it often requires us to stray from our usual routine. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s left of the holidays.
Explain your expectations
Whether you’re visiting the usual family members or just having dinner at a friend’s house, clearly tell your child what you expect of him. Tell him what he can and cannot touch. Practice the interrupt rule. Tell your child he is to give you a “yes mommy” and eye contact when you call his name. Give him any special instructions so that he is fully prepared for the situations you will encounter.
Sleep and meals
Most of us will find ourselves operating on other people’s schedules over the holidays. Do your best to keep your child on his normal routine. Explain to family members how important it is that your child gets the sleep he needs to grow and be well behaved. The same goes for meals. Try to eat at normal times and limit sugar. If your mother-in-law is known for putting dinner on the table two hours late, bring a can of soup or something else to tide your child over or so you can feed him early and put him to bed.
Giving and receiving
With retailers starting their holiday sales before Halloween, gifts often become the focus of Christmas. Be sure to explain to your child what Christmas means and why you exchange gifts. Explain that giving and receiving gifts is a way to show our family members that we love them. When you put it in these terms, showing appreciation means more than just being polite. It impresses upon your child the importance of being thankful and receiving gifts graciously.
Also, teach your child the mechanics of opening presents. I sat down with my five-year-old today and we practiced opening gifts. I “wrapped” an old toy and gave it to him, pretending I was grandma. I told him to open it then look in my eyes and say thank you and something like “I love it” or “I’ve always wanted something like this”. I also told him he is not to toss it aside and greedily open gift after gift without stopping to show his appreciation to every giver. I also prepared him for receiving a gift that he doesn’t necessarily like. I asked him what he would say and he said “no thank you”. While this is polite, I told him that to show his love for the giver, he still has to say “thank you” and even pretend that he likes it.
A couple years ago, when my nephew was four or five years old, he opened one of our gifts and said, “I didn’t want this.” It was a purely innocent comment, possibly related to a list he had made or what he had told Santa he wanted. But it caught me a little off guard. Of course, I laughed it off, but it also made me realize the importance of teaching my kids how to receive graciously.
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need to discipline your child when you’re away from home. This may be at grandma’s house or even in the store for last-minute shopping. Wherever it may be, scope out your location to look for a place to isolate your child when a timeout is needed. If grandparents disapprove of discipline, politely stand your ground and explain to them the importance of teaching your child (through your actions) what is and is not acceptable behavior. If you slack off on discipline, your child’s behaviors may snowball out of control and nobody will be happy.
Allow your child to take a break
We all get overwhelmed with all the people, food and chatter that happens during the holidays. Allow your child to escape it if he wants to. Find a spot in the home you’re visiting where he can sit and read books or even watch a video. If your child is acting up it could be that all he needs is a little peace and quiet.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to prepare your child for what’s expected and do your best to stick with your usual routine and disciplinary methods. Happy holidays!