AristoTOTs Holiday Survival Guide
“On the 12th day of Christmas Aristotots gave to me…
A holiday that’s worry and stress free!”
When I think back to my daughter’s first Christmas, she was just a tiny baby, I diligently organized our family, delegated the task of making dinner to my Mother in Law. I went out and bought a tree, etc. Decorated said tree, and redecorated said tree until it was “perfect”. Then I ensured every single family member had something under said tree to unwrap on Christmas morning. At the time, although I should have, I chose not to understand that my daughter will not really be able to participate in or appreciate Christmas. I simply had an overwhelming desire to make the first Christmas with our precious girl perfect. With hindsight, it was for me! Not my little girl. On the plus side, I have some great pictures of her looking so very cute in Christmas pajamas – which I will treasure forever.
Fast Forward a little…..
When I remember last Christmas, I am absolutely filled with dread, it was the most stressful and horrendously awful festive season I have ever experienced. I mean gut wrenching, sick in the pit of my stomach stressful! By the end I was so sad, stressed and anxious, my new year’s resolution was to strive to save myself and others from a repeat experience, so this year I have put together a survival guide for families with young children; hopefully, no body ends up feeling the way I did last year.
Steps to ensure Holiday Survival (and enjoyment!):
- Think about what worked well; and less well in previous years– adjust plans accordingly. Don’t over schedule or over commit. It’s fine to decline some invitations, heck decline them all if that’s what works best for your family. (I heard you say “bah-humbug”).
- Plan ahead, not just food preparation, but décor and a budget for gifts. Why not make dinner a “pot luck” of sorts or ask friends and family to help with appys/dessert. Make a list of “must dos” and another of “would like to but not essential” and then be realistic; your TOT will not remember if some trimmings were missing from the turkey platter or the tinsel wasn’t perfectly coordinated.
- The miracle of Christmas has nothing to do with family and friends suddenly having the ability to mind read, so manage others expectations in advance, communicate your own expectations clearly and reasonably.
- Managing your TOTs expectations, whether that’s gifts from Santa, visits to/from family and friends, expected behaviour or a shift in routines. Just like grown – ups, children dislike surprises (aside from the ones neatly wrapped under the tree!), so prepare them in advance by talking through the plans with them, invite cooperation by explaining what is expected of them and if appropriate, try to involve them in the process e.g. “we have to drive to granny’s, it will take one hour, would you like to take your magnetic drawing pad to use or some books to look at on the way”.
- Recognizing your TOTs cues over the festive period is key – look for their particular signs of being overwhelmed, tired, or anxious and offer lots of hugs, reassurance or rest as needed.
- It’s tempting to allow routines to slip at this time of year; for those with particularly young children (under 4 especially), I would highly recommend sticking to routines and the regular schedule as much as possible. Meals, nap and bedtime, activity should all remain consistent for babies, toddlers & preschoolers. Children thrive on this consistency and the predictably of their day, even a small change can throw a sensitive TOT off considerably. Working festivities around the schedule takes some planning but it’s well worth doing; consider having grandparents/other family baby sit so you can go to that soiree which starts at 8pm whilst your TOT goes to bed at the usual time.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, make healthy eating choices, remember your TOT is watching you like a hawk; her habits will form based on what she sees Mommy & Daddy do. If you don’t want her to eat that second slice of cake, then you pass up on it too, she’ll respect you for it when she’s old enough to understand. Take time to go for a walk together, to burn those extra holiday calories.
- Make sure family and friends understand this is not the time to debate in an effort to resolve any conflicts which may have arisen over the year, easier said than done, I know! Try a truce – everyone signs a truce agreement and participates in the day with a positive attitude. Have a place any member of the party can retreat to if they need a few moments to gather themselves and come back with a positive attitude – adults and TOTs alike.
- Absolutely no phones, or at least very limited usage. Make memories, live in the moment, the odd selfie is fine, it’s the world we live in. But seriously – put the phone away and just enjoy the disconnect.
- Creating your own traditions can be a very easy way to get into the holiday spirit, keep it simple and inexpensive, so your tradition lasts the test of time. In our house, we always buy one new “special” ornament for the tree each year, it’s an ornament which has meaning for us that year, and something we all go out and choose together.
- Driving long distances with little ones can be tough on a cold wet/snowy day especially when they are super excited about Christmas. Be prepared by packing extra snacks, clothes, car friendly activities, favourite stuffy and blanket, and the most important item – a travel potty in the trunk. This last item is a life saver, I’m speaking from experience! When a 2 year old needs the potty, he needs it now!! Not at the rest stop a half a mile away. Allow extra time for your journey and check the traffic report before you leave for a stress free’ish ride.
- When visiting friends and family, pack your TOTs favourite snacks and a few toys and books. If what your host is serving isn’t what your child is used to at the dinner table, be positive and enthusiastic – offer it to your TOT, she might surprise you. If she tries it and doesn’t like it you’ll be glad you stashed that fruit pouch, veggie sticks, yogurt and cheese sandwich in a lunch bag. There may or may not be other children to play with, so having a few activities to keep your child engaged for some of the visit will help make it a fun time for all.
Happy Holidays from Aristotots!