No matter what you celebrate at this time of year, it’s holiday time and can create stress. So here are some thoughts about how to enjoy yourself;
Celebrating the Holidays
It’s almost here. You can feel it in the air, the holidays are almost upon us and you feel absolutely panic stricken.
Celebrating, hah, you’d settle for survival. I considered naming this column surviving the holidays and then I realized that’s not the point. Survival is nice but a pretty minimalist goal. Let’s plan to celebrate! But how?
Every parent I know would just love it if schools closed for the holidays on December 24. Just think of it, no school-aged kids to consider while trying to gear up for the big day. (Every teacher I know is now planning to lynch me!). Whether the kids are home and excited and underfoot, or involved in a childcare program from which they return all keen and stimulated, it’s just not easy to get to your to-do list.
So, involve the kids. They can help you, but that will only take you so far. Involving them is great and as they get older the can actually be helpful but you still need some unfettered time to get a handle on the preparations.
So develop a buddy system. The parents of your kids friends are dealing with the same dilemma, so share the problem. “I’ll take your kids for an afternoon if you’ll return the favour.” When it’s your turn to have all the kids get them making decorations, stringing popcorn that you can use on the tree or involve them in baking cookies.
When they are with your buddy, resist the urge to have a nap. Head off on a purposeful shopping trip or begin a cooking marathon.
Rituals are great. Kids love rituals and when you have developed planned activities from year to year they just happen without you having to scratch your head figuring out what to do with these antsy kids of yours. Choose wisely. Remember once you have done something once the kids will expect the same activity every year. Activities, which get them outside and moving, are a good bet. Kids love looking at the lights. In my old neighbourhood we had a street with a light competition. It’s on Trinity Street in east Vancouver. The kids can vote for their favourite block (ballots cost $2 and all the proceeds go to charity) so they will become engaged in the activity. It’s fun, it’s Christmassy and if you vote, it’s for a good cause. Of course, there are other streets and venues with great displays.
As much as possible maintain regular schedules. If mealtime and bedtime are respected, kids will handle all the other unusual and exciting activities without melting down.
Speaking of schedules. Be realistic. Do you really think it’s going to be fun to have two Christmas dinners or drop into four homes on Christmas day with the kids? Spread out the visiting over the holidays and make all the visits fun. A relaxed visit two days after Christmas is much nicer than a frazzled visit with tired, grumpy kids on the twenty-fifth.
But it’s not all easy. What about when you’re co-parenting and need to coordinate with the other parent? The trick is to be gracious and to communicate. Think about the kids. What is best for them? Work around their needs. Let go of the past and your fantasies about what the holiday should be and make your reality be the best it can be.
It would be nice to think that as we come together to celebrate the holidays everyone will be friendly and happy. For some, there are going to be family members who are rude, who are nasty or who will embarrass you.
When you know things are not going to be positive but these are relatives you must see, try to control the environment. Visit them at their place. This makes it possible for you to keep the visit short. One advantage of kids is that you can always have to get them home for a nap or an event. While you’re there try to stay calm but don’t let anyone pick on your kids. Defend them if they are the butt of teasing or put-downs. If someone drinks too much, you can also leave.
At home let your kids talk about what happened. This is chance to talk to them about how we have responsibilities to our relatives but we also need to protect ourselves. If the problem is booze, it’s a great chance to teach the kids about responsible and irresponsible drinking. The trick is to be honest without being nasty.
Finally, make sure everyone is getting fresh air and exercise. On Christmas Day, while the bird is in the oven or after dinner, go out for a walk. We used to head off to the Vancouver Aquarium. There’s something soothing about fish and water. There’s a great atmosphere on Christmas Day.
Face the possible problems right on. Plan how to handle the holiday.
Then instead of just surviving, celebrate!
Vive la Différence
There are so many times when we are raising our kids when we note their differences. My mini guide e-book , Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments addresses this.
I have always known that each child is a unique individual. I looked at my two who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a textbook example of different.
But, now I have three grandchildren, all the same age and the differences from their births has been striking.
The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments. The guide is available on my website.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, (http://www.parentingtoday.ca/workshopskeynotes/) have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.