Starting about this time of year, many parents find that life begins to spin out of control. Holidays are packed on top of one another, and with them come the requisite parties, activities, and gifts. While each of these things is exciting in its own right, putting them all together can be exhausting for both parents and children, rather than exhilarating.
It is, however, possible to create the types of memories that you want to give your kids. This takes a little extra thought and planning, but it can turn your holiday season from a nightmare into what you'd always hoped and dreamed it would be.
Know Your Kids
Different kids will handle situations differently. Some may be able to stay up late and still go to bed with no problem, while others will be racing around the house until midnight with all the excitement. Some kids can go from Christmas party to Christmas party and enjoy them all, while others will be overstimulated after a half-hour at one.
When you know what your kids are sensitive to and what will push them over the edge, you'll be able to pick and choose activities that won't overwhelm anyone. It's harder when you have one kid who wants to go, Go, GO! and another who mostly wants to stay home, but even then, knowing them will help you make the best decisions you can.
It's hard to say "No!", especially during the holiday season. You may really want to do everything, or at least more than what you and your kids can handle without a meltdown. But picking and choosing your events will allow you to create the sorts of memories that everyone wants, instead of the ones that you'll cringe to recall.
It can be especially hard to say "no" when you feel obligated to be somewhere. The neighbors came to your Labor Day BBQ and now you feel like you have to go to their holiday open house. Your in-laws came to your house for Thanksgiving last year and so you feel like it's necessary to trek to their house this year. Whatever the situation, first resolve what you are and are not willing to do, and stick with it.
Know ahead of time what you're going to say if someone pressures you beyond what you're comfortable with. A simple statement like, "We've already committed to two parties that day and I know my son needs his down time," or "My daughter can really only stand a couple of hours in the car at a time," can balance your refusal with an explanation.
Focus on What You Value
If you're still not sure when to say "yes" and when to say "no," think about what you value around each holiday. Do you want your kids to remember to actually give thanks on Thanksgiving? You can attend a religious service and skip the after-dinner movie.
When you know what you value, the activities often fall into a naturally prioritized list. Defining your values will help you see why you feel drawn to certain events and less excited about others. While there still may be more than you can possibly do, this gives you another guideline for evaluation before you make a final decision.
When It Comes to Gifts...
In addition to choosing between events, Christmas or other seasonal holidays often require you to navigate gift-receiving and the highs and lows that can come with that. If you're concerned about overwhelming or confusing your child, or just stemming the tide of gimmees, you can apply some of the same principles discussed above.
Knowing your child will help you to know what gifts will be most meaningful and which ones will be forgotten after a couple of hours. This will also help you know how your child will handle extended times of opening presents and the stimulation of suddenly having so many new things all at once.
Setting boundaries will help you communicate to friends and family members what you do and do not want your children to receive. If Barbie seems sexist or Thomas the Train extravagant, having boundaries will help you ask people to simply not give your children these gifts.
Finally, knowing what you value will help you determine how to teach your children about gift giving. Is it all about the thought for you, or is it about buying that just-right thing? Whatever you value about gift giving will inform how you shop with and for your children, and will help them learn to value the same things.
Navigating holidays with children can be difficult, but teaching the things you value can be extremely rewarding for you and beneficial for them. Taking the time to think through events and gifts ahead of time will help you ensure that your kids get out of the holidays the things that you most want them to have.