Our to-do lists are never longer than they are during the holidays. If you’re like most parents, it probably looks something like this:
- Pull the decorations down from the attic
- Find and decorate an Instagram quality tree
- Organize large family get togethers with elaborate meals
- Attende holiday concerts and recitals of varying degrees of professionalism
- Make a craft project involving pinecones and hot glue
These are just some of the tasks that come along with the most wonderful time of the year. We want to give our kids a magical season, and so we do our best to do it all. These are often much beloved traditions and pastimes, but boy can they be stressful!
Instead of all of the extra activities and traditions bringing us closer to our family, they can actually have the opposite effect, driving us so bananas that we can’t concentrate on what really matters. In order for there to be peace not only on Earth, but in your home, it’s helpful to recognize those things that are adding too much chaos and not enough joy to your holidays.
Holiday Stress and our Higher Brain
As a parent, these skills are pretty well exercised (thanks, kids!). However, during this extra busy season of doing, giving, and sharing, it really gets a workout. There are so many things to remember and responsibilities to manage and so, as a result, our prefrontal cortex starts to work at hyperspeed. If this level of intensive use persists over a long period of time, it can result in decreased memory and new brain cell production. It can even lead to the death of existing brain cells1. That certainly doesn’t sound like a good way to spend the holidays!
So how can we take a step back and recenter?
Reevaluate your priorities.
If the tradition doesn’t add to you and your family’s enjoyment of this time of year, maybe look to simplifying it or removing it all together. You probably won’t miss it nearly as much as you think you will, and you can then gain back some more valuable quality time.
Just Say No.
It’s easy to say yes to every single invitation and favor. Having fewer things on your kids calendar means that they’re able to better appreciate the things that they do get to participate in. Not to mention that crazy, stressed out, covered in tinsel mom is definitely no fun to be around. It’s much better to avoid letting it go that far.
More Responsibility = More Stress
Part of the magic of the end of year holidays is the joy that it brings to our kids. Watching their eyes sparkle at the lights and colors, hearing them sing and giggle; that’s really what it’s all about. As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure that our kids have a special holiday. We may have expectations based on our own childhood memories and feel compelled to ensure that our kids have the same or better. We might also feel the need to give more of ourselves and our time. This added sense of responsibility during this time of year only adds to the stress of it all.
So maybe instead…
Try picking one or two traditions you want to share with your children.
You’ll be surprised how happy they will be not just with the over the top activities, but with the simple ones as well, such as watching a Christmas movie at home or making paper snowflakes.
Try to pick one organization or charity you want to support as a family.
Maybe it’s buying a present for a child and donating it to a children’s charity, or volunteering an afternoon at a homeless shelter. This is a great way not only to teach your kids the true meaning of the season, but also benefits those in need.
We may think that by rushing around and trying to do everything, that we are giving our kids the best Christmas. However, you may find, as is so often true in other aspects of our life, that less is actually more.
Between the crowds in the mall, music and lights everywhere, and the added sweets, the holidays can quickly lead to sensory overload. This is true particularly for children who already experience sensory issues, however, any child when fed too much candy and kept up past bedtime too many times can quickly become “over it”. All of the hustle and bustle can be wonderful and exciting, but it’s important to consider the impact that it has on our kids.
Keep an eye on them in situations when you know they could reach their tipping point. Maybe it’s getting close to bedtime or maybe they get particularly hangry, after all, don’t we all? Try to spot the signs of fatigue early and avoid any stress related meltdowns with a healthy snack or a nap.
Keep your expectations reasonable. You may have waited in line for an hour for your child to sit on Santa’s lap and get that mantle piece perfect picture, but 5 minutes to showtime he’s now fast asleep. It may not be realistic at this point to expect a smiling, happy picture with the big guy in red. This year you might just have to settle with a picture of mom, dad, and a sleeping baby…and that’s okay!
Know when enough is enough. Rather than forcing your kids into situations where you know they are going to have a hard time, find ways to avoid unnecessary commotion where possible. Try shopping online to avoid long lines and the mayhem of a busy store, or don’t be afraid to duck out of that carolling concert early. Knowing when to call it quits means that you get to end your activity on a high note, which is a win win for everyone.
The Gift of Routine
One of the things that makes this time of year so special is how there are so many extra things that you don’t normally do. These are often exciting treats to look forward to, but too much of a good thing can actually negatively impact our kids behaviour and well being. It’s okay to factor in fun, but sticking to the routine during this bustling period can in fact add to your yuletide cheer.
Never disregard the all powerful sleep schedule. Making sure that your child’s bedtime routine stays the same is a great way to make sure that they are well rested and able to enjoy all of the holiday magic to the fullest, and avoid turning into a grinch.
Control the Cookie Count. There are just SO many baked goods this time of year! It’s fun to indulge in a festive treat, but breaking your child’s year round healthy habit can quickly lead to a sore tummy and a sour temper. Setting limits on how many sweets they can have will help ensure expectations are clear and avoid the inevitable sugar crash, and for mom it means not having to add “Eat healthy” to your New Year’s resolutions (again!).
A change in routine can have serious repercussions. Breaking our routine with all of the extra activities that come along with the holiday season can be mentally and physically taxing. It can cause us to make mistakes or become absent minded, which in turn only leads to more pressure and stress. It can become a vicious cycle if left unchecked.
Ride Nanny has thought of the impact of all of these factors on our minds as parents, by creating a solution to a problem that stems from stress and fatigue. With the extra changes to routine thrown in the mix, we can very easily slip up, which can have devastating consequences. We’re in and out of our cars a lot this time of year, and with everything else going on the last thing you want to forget is your child in the car. Ride Nanny is there to help make sure that you and your family have a safe holiday season wherever you go, leaving you to only worry about making your days merry and bright.
1Edwards, Scott. “Holiday Stress and the Brain”. On the Brain: The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, President and Fellows of Harvard College, http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain