Parents in my community report that this is one of the most magical stressful times of the year.

If you want to enjoy the holidays not just survive them, here are 7 tips to help you. 

#1- Prioritize what’s important.

We are bombarded with Pinterest and Instagram holiday magic. 

These storybook celebrations don’t automatically make the holidays meaningful- and you could really wear everyone out trying. 

We also get so many invitations to gatherings and holiday events. Going to everything would be exhausting.

What things mean most to you? Choose a few things and fully enjoy them.

If it’s not a big YES! It is no, thank you.

This also means simplifying things at home.

What can you cross off your to-do list? (Even if you don’t do it!)

How can you make meals easier? Breakfast for dinner? Spaghetti with jarred sauce and baby carrots? 

#2- Manage yourself.

Managing yourself is two parts: taking care of yourself and taking responsibility for your feelings.

As a parent, you are driving the train. You set the tone for your family. If you’re not happy, no one is. 

If you’re stressed out and overwhelmed- guess what? Your kids will be as well. 

What do you need to do to take care of yourself? Enough sleep? Take things off your to-do list? Do it!

Even if you are pretty good at taking care of yourself, there will inevitably be times that you are frustrated, stressed or upset. 

That’s okay! 

Just try not to act when you are upset. 

Take a minute to calm down before you lose it or give some crazy threat or consequence. 

Remind yourself that it’s not an emergency.

Stop-Drop-Breathe. (Stop what you’re doing, drop your agenda- just for the moment, and breathe to calm yourself down.)

#3- Recognize that your child is doing the best they can.

Children want to be good. They want to do the right thing.

If your child could do better they would do better.

If you can remember that they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time, you will be able to respond with a lot more emotional generosity and empathy.

They ARE doing the best they can. 

#4- Lower your expectations.

Your kids WILL melt down, act up, and push all our buttons.

We often struggle because of the gap between what our children “should” be doing and what they are actually doing.

Yes, your child should be able to sit nicely at dinner. But apparently at this moment they can’t manage it.

Let go of the “shoulds.” They are acting like kids because they are kids- and at this time of year, their resources are lower due to more activity and disrupted routines, lots of excitement, less sleep and more sugar!

#5- Unpack the big feelings.

If your child is being difficult, acting out, or melting down every 5 minutes, it could be because they have a full emotional backpack.

When we have a lot of big feelings we can’t process in the moment, we hold them in our bodies (our emotional backpack.)

When the backpack gets full, the feelings come spilling out.

Empathize with your child and help them cry.

Welcome all their emotions, even if you don’t agree.

Your child needs you to acknowledge and empathize with their feelings before they can calm down.

If you can help your child process all the big feelings (especially at this time of year!) they will be more cooperative and less prone to meltdowns.

#6- Scaffold your child.

Scaffolding is supporting your child to meet your expectations.

Children often regress as a response to overwhelm.

It will pass. They might need extra help right now.

If your child asks for help getting dressed but you know they can do it themselves? Take this opportunity to nurture them.

Offer to help. Enjoy it. They will be grown up before you know it.

#7- Connect.

When all else fails: “I think we both need a hug.”

That sweet connection is what we are here for and why we want to have the holiday joy and memories in the first place.

Snuggle up.

Get playful and laugh.

Delight in your child. Take a few minutes to smile and give them a loving touch.

We want our kids to look back at their childhood and remember the holidays with fondness. Even if it means we do less! Give yourself a break this season. And as parents, we set the tone in our homes, whether it’s one of stress or one of joy and ease.

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