The holidays can wreak havoc on us all, especially our kids—it can mess with sleep schedules, eating habits, and limit opportunities for physical activity, such as getting outside to play. Parents may also notice an increase in negative behaviour and a general moodiness from their children during the holidays. Therefore, maintaining a routine becomes even more important to children during the holidays. Structured routines help children feel safe, provide comfort and help them predict what is happening around them which helps them manage their emotions and navigate social situations.
Here are a few things you can do during the holidays to help maintain some sense of a routine, while still enjoying the fun of the holidays.
Plan ahead and talk about these plans with your children. On a calendar, write down when you’ll be getting together with family or friends and try to balance it with some downtime. Be sure to schedule in some time to enjoy physical activity and meals together, rest time and “lazy days” to do whatever they want. Try not to overbook your schedule and be sure to talk to your child about what is happening each day.
Discuss expectations with your children. Children need you to set loving limits for them so that they know what is expected of them. For example, if you are going to a gathering and anticipate there will be a lot of treats there, tell them that for every treat they plan to eat, you want them to eat something healthy first.
When children know their limits ahead of time, it helps minimize negative behaviours and any confusion they might have about what is and is not ok.
Prepare for the preparable. If you are travelling during the holidays, be sure to bring snacks, activities, etc. for your child. Likewise, pack an activity or toy for your child to enjoy if they are going somewhere for the day. Preparing ahead of time can save you from having bored, hungry children later.
Respect your child's bedtime and naps as much as possible. This will help them more fully enjoy the holiday season. When it's time to go to bed, try to stick to their bedtime routine, whether it's singing a song, reading a story, etc.