Guest blogger Christina Montoya Fiedler: The holidays are a challenging time -- especially for parents. Overtired, oversimulated kids are a dime a dozen, and even parents themselves are close to meltdowns.
We talked with Dr. Fran Walfish, author of "The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child," which focuses on helping parents understand how their personality shapes the growth of their children. Here, she tells us the top ten tricks for handling the holidays with kids in tow -- and not a moment too soon!
Dr. Fran's Top Ten Tips for Handling the Holidays
1) Provide routine and structure. Without the routine and structure of school during winter vacation, kids' energy levels often escalate. Structure calms children down.
2) Keep bedtimes and mealtimes the same. So much else changes during the holidays, including visiting relatives, traveling and overindulgence in food and gifts.
3) Keep your expectations realistic. Don't expect your 3-year-old to sit at the table demonstrating perfect table manners. Expect kids to have fun and occasionally err.
4) Sit close to the child who needs extra guidance and support to handle the overstimulation of added noise, visiting guests and fine china at the dinner table. Children under the age of 4 should sit next to a supportive adult who can help them with table behavior.
5) Promote gratitude and appreciation. Teach your children to genuinely thank the giver of a gift. If your child makes comments like, "I don't like that" or "I wanted something else," have your child correct it right then and there. Correcting is not an apology; it's restating your comment in a respectful way.
6) Teach kids to react politely if they are disappointed with the gift they receive. Teach empathy with kindness by helping your children imagine what it feels like to see a disappointed face on the receiver of a gift.
7) Assign jobs to your children. Nothing feels more important than being needed as part of the team. Let them set the table or allow them to bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen. Find ways to engage your kids, teaching responsibility and building their self-esteem with the pride of accomplishment.
8) Try to maintain a sense of humor, and stay flexible. Sometimes plans may need to be altered or revised in order to accommodate your children's needs. Don't sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself, "What difference will this make one year from now?"
9) Focus on family togetherness. Contrary to popular belief, what kids love most about Christmas and Hanukkah is not the gifts, it's the bonding and coming together of family. The adults who come to my office do not remember what they "got" for the holidays as a child. But they do remember family dinners, parties and unity. This is why divorced families endure added challenges during this time of year.
10) Accept the fact that anxiety and stress both rise during the holidays. Be realistic. Watch out for any personal wish to make the holidays a "perfect, magical time" -- you will be setting yourself up for a huge letdown.
The more relaxed and flexible you are, the more calm and happy your children will be. Happy holidays!