Grandma Gonna Pinch Cheeks Again? Helping Your Kids Survive the Holidays

IMG_4942Oh the weather outside is frightful, but you can help your kids stay delightful. And since we’ve got a lot of people to see and places to go, Amy McCready, Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, gives Breezy Mama tips on helping your kids enjoy it so. From teaching them to appreciate that awful gift they were given to guidance on handling the relatives even you can’t, here you go, here you go, here you go…

Let’s face it — kids will get worn out during the holidays — how can parents manage their stress levels and keep the tantrums and meltdowns to a minimum?

Routine, routine, routine! The most important thing that parents can do is keep kids on a consistent routine during the holidays. Sleep routines should be consistent with non-holiday times. Allowing kids of any age to stay up past the normal bedtime sets parent and child up for a disaster! When kids are overly tired, they are prone to tantrums and meltdowns, sibling fighting and are less likely to cooperate with simple requests.

Maintaining a regular sleep routine over the holidays may require some sacrifices from the parents – but they will benefit in the long run!

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on the kids to be well behaved in situations even I’m completely bored in. Do you have advice for managing the expectations of the relatives when it comes to your own children?

IMG_4823Be prepared. Recognize your child’s attention span and if a holiday activity is going to push the limits, then be prepared with alternate activities for your kids. Bring coloring books, play-doh, an iPod – what he/she enjoys doing.

Again, maintaining normal sleep routines during the holidays will give your child the best opportunity to roll with the punches even during the less exciting holiday visits and activities.

When a child says, “I hate this bear!” after your grandma spent weeks knitting it for them, what’s the best approach with your child… even when the bear is really ugly?

Role play ahead of time the etiquette for giving and receiving gifts. Practice showing gratitude for the gesture – even if the gift isn’t what you expected.

How do you teach your children to appreciate gifts instead of expecting them?

It’s perfectly normal for kids to be excited about receiving gifts but parents can shift the focus from “expecting” to “appreciating” by giving to those in need. Adopt a family through your church or school and talk about what their holiday will be like. Spend time thinking about each person in that family and what he/she might enjoy as a holiday gift. Take your child with you when you shop for that family and deliver the gifts with your child.

Can parents give a child TOO many gifts during the holidays?

Yes! Ask your child to “force rank” his “wish list” and select a few items from the list. Also, be sure to purge toys before the holidays and donate them to a charity who can give them to children in need.

What types of gifts do you recommend so children aren’t disappointed?

I don’t recommend a “type” of gift to ensure that child isn’t disappointed – but have a conversation about the “wish list.” It is just that – a “wish” list and it doesn’t mean that he will get everything on the list.

And let’s dish on food — not everyone is going to contribute something delicious. How do you help your child from having to eat something a relative is insisting they try (may or may not have happened to me when I was little…)?

I encourage you to contribute something to the meal that you know your child will eat. However, the best thing you can do is prepare your child for how to handle those situations. Role play the appropriate response to “culinary prodding” – “No, thank you, I don’t care for any peas today.” Most relatives will be perfectly content with that response. If prodded further, encourage your child to repeat the same thing… “No thank you, I don’t care for any peas today.”

No matter how hard parents can try to create the perfect holidays for their children, how do you handle a disappointed child after all the gifts are open?

It’s natural for kids to be disappointed if they don’t receive the “the #1 gift” on their lists. Plan ahead by preparing them if something on their list is unreasonable. If they are still disappointed after opening their gifts, empathize and say, “I’m sorry you feel disappointed about not getting _____.” But don’t give the issue too much attention.

And how do you answer that question we all asked when we were little but are dumbfounded when our children are in a pile of gift wrap after opening what seemed like thousands of gifts and ask: is that it?

Don’t miss a beat and say, “Yes, that’s it – you received some really cool gifts! How would you like to thank each person? What other tips can you give for not overwhelming kids during the holidays?

Stay on a routine. Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids. Stay focused on family togetherness, giving to others and peace.

Any other advice?

Get your child involved in as much of the holiday planning as possible – making/selecting gifts for others, wrapping gifts, delivering/ passing out gifts, meal planning and preparation, etc. It’s not the parents job to “create a perfect holiday.” The holidays should be something we experience as a family – the planning, the preparation, the fun and the clean up! You’ll all enjoy the holidays more if everyone is involved in the process!

McCready Head ShotAbout Amy

Parenting expert Amy McCready has been creating and delivering training programs for over 20 years in Fortune 500 companies and community organizations. Amy founded Positive Parenting Solutions, Inc. in 2004 and developed the popular and successful Breakthrough Course that has changed the lives of thousands of parents through in‐person seminars, speeches and online webinars.

In 2009, Amy launched The Breakthrough Course Online to give parents everywhere the skills, knowledge and tools to correct their children’s misbehaviors permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling. She speaks to them “one‐on‐one” through the most advanced and thorough Web 2.0 parenting course available today. Amy is frequently asked to provide expert parenting advice for print and online parenting articles. She is a sought after speaker, writer, parenting coach, trainer and most importantly – Mom! Amy received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Penn State University and is certified as a Positive Discipline Parent Educator.
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