Whether your family is heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s or across the country to old Uncle Joe’s, helping kids understand expectations for holiday behavior pays off. With millions of children and parents flying, driving, or riding the rails to see loved ones this Christmas, there is no better time to bring joy back in joyful with a few of AK Fam’s tips for taming Christmas Beasts, before they get that way.
Children are already ramped up with more power than the Energizer Bunny, fueled by a stream of endless excitement and a little bit of sugar. The Big Day is almost here, and for families who choose to travel on this most busiest of weeks, there is no better time than right now to start establishing a new tradition or revisiting an old one; Behaving Oneself. (Remember, Santa is watching).
1. Set expectations before leaving home. Family Meeting time. Who will clear the table? Take out grandma’s trash? Everyone makes his or her bed; whatever the chore list says at home, it sticks away from it, too. In fact, we bring it along and stick it up on the fridge as a reminder to those who may, ahem, “forget”. Tweens and teens can practice not rolling their eyes when asked to do said chores. Little ones can show relatives that they can go a whole morning without whining. True story. Bringing the DS and have rules at your house? Yes, those same rules apply whether in Alaska or Arkansas. Stick to your guns. Your kids want you to.
2. Mind manners. If ever there was a holiday meal to show off kids, this would be it. Review table manners, and review your own to make sure kids are not parroting your open-mouthed chewing or elbows on the table. Find some great tips HERE for teaching kiddos the proper way to ask for more mashed potatoes. Practice restaurant behavior, and consider not eating out with kids under two or three, if at all possible. Really, who needs that kind of stress. With table manners, it needn’t be detailed, just common sense. That said, demand Thank You’s for every gift received, with a look at the person who thoughtfully provided it. Slow down the Christmas Rush of present opening if need be. Have kids write Thank You notes when they get home. AK Grandma is big on this.
3. Slim down the schedule. We peruse the newspaper for fun events and activities, then write down these and other ideas on little slips of paper and have each person draw one from a ski hat. Pick one a day, maybe two if short. Remember that overscheduled kids are cranky kids. Take time for meals together before rushing out the door. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to send children outdoors to play. Don’t worry, they’ll come up with something.
4. Don’t forget the family time. Some of my favorite holiday memories are sitting around my aunt’s kitchen table, fire in the woodstove, cocoa in our hands, playing UNO with my cousins, siblings, and uncle. Heads up parents; kids often share their lives better with someone else, and did we ever. My uncle shared stories of his growing up years, we shared ours, and positive building blocks for our future were built. Amazing.
5. Stick to routines. Keep bedtime as at home. Time change? Add or subtract a few minutes/an hour to help navigate sleep. Bring favorite books from home, a “lovie”, and stuffed animal, and don’t forget to bring the night light. Remind family or friends this is a sacred time to you and your kids, and go ahead with bedtime rituals. Sleep=happy. Happy kids=happy moms and dads.
6. Enjoy, embrace, emote. Love this time. Love on your kids. Share your favorite memories with them and expect the same from them, someday. That kind of magic never goes away.