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How to Thrive as a Parent Amidst Holiday Lifestyle Disruptions

Holiday celebrations are the few times a year we see a bunch of people we don’t get to see otherwise - parents, grandparents, extended family, Buddy the elf, the ghost of Christmas past. And we see them all at once! That can be stressful what with packing, traveling, staying in someone else’s home, hosting others in yours. These are the physical inconveniences of the holidays, and we know them well.

But what of the emotional inconveniences that come with habitual or communication patterns? Divisive topics like politics, religion, the best latke topping can be especially disruptive in such close quarters. But the little guy meeting your relatives either for the first time or the first time in a while is not aware of any of that. Bless them. It is a great opportunity for them to:

  • Interpret the world around them

  • Sense stability 

  • Develop self-awareness

  • Understand relationships

  • Learn how to navigate experiences in different settings

So however uncomfortable or inconvenient these times can be, they are truly vital experiences for young children, because they’re rare and different from their every-day. If they’re around family members their own age, it’s a chance to practice social skills and build lasting connections.

But hey - remember the medley of disruptions this time can bring? There’s a big one that is much harder to foresee. It’s differing parenting styles. Your siblings, in-laws, cousins - they won’t do everything the way you do. Staying aware of this means noting how other caregivers in your family approach things like: 

  • Passive vs. active sources of entertainment

  • Limit setting

  • Misbehavior

  • Dietary restrictions

  • Bedtimes and schedules

What are you willing to negotiate on for the sake of the season? What are serious boundaries that you should probably articulate to the other adults around? In addition to setting expectations, there are steps you can take to survive all of the above intact.

  1. Let go of control. Be at peace with the fact that you can’t control all of the details. After all, you’re sharing a space, not monopolizing it.

  2. Remember that the social emotional benefits of quality family time for your children outweigh the discomfort of a broken routine.

  3. Be intentional and transparent about temporary lifestyle changes. Preemptively tell your children if bedtime will be a little later or if they’re allowed to eat food that they don’t eat at home every day.

  4. Be mindful and acknowledge what your child may be experiencing for a first time. You can prepare children over 4 for social interactions by explaining the concept of sharing their own or someone else’s space. 

Remember that your children are also watching you. Model for them what it’s like to be part of a loving family, to participate in a community. This is a really valuable opportunity to show them the benefits of getting along with a variety of personalities, co-existing in the same space, and celebrating your togetherness.

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