By Amy Shatila and Marysa Enis
Lights are twinkling from housetops, humans young and old are donning ugly sweaters, and sweet treats are becoming a primary food group. All signs are pointing to one of the most anticipated times of the year.
The countdown to winter break has begun.
It’s Okay, Being Frazzled is Part of the Plan
For many of us, the holidays are packed full of events. We rush to winter concerts at school and holiday-themed parties at work. We prepare for family and friends to visit, or make travel plans to visit them. We feel excited, overwhelmed, and frazzled, and our children do, too.
Children crave consistency and predictability, and for the most part, they’re used to getting it at school. They may count the days until winter break and dance for joy as they get off the bus, but we know what lies ahead. The holidays can mean emotional highs and lows that are exhausting for everyone.
So how do excited, overwhelmed, and frazzled parents create structure during these unstructured times?
1. Keep some regular routines.
We all need familiarity in our lives, even in exciting and relaxing times. Maybe it’s a family walk around the block or an evening reading session. Try to continue at least one daily routine with your family during the holiday break.
2. Consider family input.
Everyone likes to be heard. Have your child make a list of things they’d like to do over the break. It could be something fantastic (who doesn’t want to fly to the moon?) that leads to creative adventures. Hopefully, it’s also something that you can fit into your schedule. This will give your child something to look forward to and give you ideas for the calendar.
3. Create a schedule.
A simple schedule that is flexible usually works best. You can tailor it for any age. If your child does well with pictures or is not a fluent reader, you may try something like this:
Tuesday: Visit Uncle Rico
Or, if you’re not sure what you’ll be doing, that’s okay! To ward off perpetual questioning, choose a few viable options and include them on the calendar. It really helps to have at least one confirmed activity or place for each day.
Tuesday: Visit Uncle Rico
Things we might do: Roller skating, grill hot dogs, play games
4. Give reminders before switching to a new activity.
Who likes to be rushed? Especially when it means stopping something you like (ahhhh, reading a good book by the fire) to do something less exciting (say, getting in the car for 6 hours with unhappy children). More than likely, your kids aren’t the ones making plans or choosing timelines. Help them find closure with their current activity, which may look like putting their toys in a box or allowing them to finish a level on their game.
5. Have a plan in case your child gets overwhelmed.
We all get stressed, especially when social demands are high. As adults, we have a lot of control over our environments. We can leave a loud or busy room, make an excuse and head home early, or drink a glass of wine as we chat with friends. Children may feel trapped at social events or in new environments, and like adults, they may need a calm, quiet space or downtime to decompress.
If you are traveling, make sure your child has some of their favorite things readily available. This may include books, toys, and food. If your child has dietary needs, make sure they have food that meets their needs.
6. Above all else, remember, you’ve got this!
A little bit of advance planning can minimize family stress during the holiday season and allow you to enjoy the time you have together. And, you know what else? Even if it doesn’t and stress seeps in, remember that you’re not alone. Millions of parents are in it with you, and we are all doing the best we can.