It is the most wonderful time of the year <3
Except, when it isn't-
Between the hectic schedule of the holidays, year end school events, gatherings, work deadlines, play dates, special dinners, traditional activities your family *always* does, this time of year can be a tad overwhelming for anyone. Add a baby or children on top of the mix, and you have a recipe for stress overload.
In my early years navigating these schedules with a new baby, then two, then three, I found myself absolutely dreading things I had loved in the past. Visiting the National Tree in Washington DC, ice skating with my husband, family dinners that involved travel...
Toting babies and toddlers who had varied nap schedules, became carsick, screamed after 20 minutes on the road, were potty training, had colds and sniffles, and didn't know the people we were going to see, it really added quite a bit to a very full plate.
So, I would love to offer a few tips that I have garnered over the years, and I hope it can help you find your peace and serenity this holiday season!
- It is ok to say "no". When you are looking at hitting three households within a few days, the stress levels can be overwhelming. It is perfectly fine to set limits, break up the routine, and designate different days to spread out the visits. Your relatives will probably appreciate a more calm and relaxed visit, where they can concentrate on your little ones instead of a mix of 20+ people.
- Talk with your partner ahead of time to establish what you both want to get out of the trip. You may be surprised that neither one of you wants to follow through with the chaos, but you assumed the other person did! These discussions can be eye opening, and help prioritize what happens, when, and with who. Take a few moments after the kids have gone to bed to have this chat, then work on a plan together.
- Assume the unexpected will happen. Many a trip, we have had a child unexpectedly throw up, and we had to turn the car around and go home again, jiggity jig jig...
It can be frustrating, especially if you have cooked food and rearranged schedules, but children bring an element of surprise to just about everything, so plan for changes to occur.
- Respect the boundaries your children set. This can be a sticky one in many families, but I feel it is the most important. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers will have very strong opinions on who can hold them, kiss them, hug them, and that should be respected. Being thrown into a new family mix, or even a familiar when, when tired from travel, probably a little hungry and overstimulated, can be a recipe for anxiety and stress. It is ok if your child doesn't want to show affection right away (or even at all!), an it is your job to be the go-between between your child and everyone else. If a high five or fist bump won't do, revisit the issue a tad later, but forced kisses and hugs usually backfire and are unpleasant for everyone involved. Your children will thank you later for this, it is a great habit to form to be the one who stands up for them and their wishes <3