The holidays can be a really stressful time for young families, particularly if your holiday plans include traveling long distances to be with family. I know that my last Christmas was not ideal--I ended up in the hospital with a severe stomach virus while my son had to be taken to an urgent care for croup all in the same day. This happened out of state and literally the day after Christmas. Moral of the story? Hope for the best, but expect the worst and then you'll always be prepared!
While it's true that a packing list or schedule of activities doesn't make your holiday plans foolproof, it can help a whole lot. Here are five tips for keeping your holiday season safe, fun, and uneventful.
1. Stick to a Sleep Routine
As hard as it might seem, keeping your kids on a schedule is a surefire way to avoid overtired and grumpy little ones. Of course, if you're flying and/or driving, this could get complicated. Do your best to start the journey with well-fed and entertained kids. When their basic needs are met and they're comfortable, most kids can sleep in the car or on the plane. As soon as you reach your destination, make catching up on sleep and getting back on a schedule a priority. Even if it means adjusting your kids' sleep schedule weeks before your trip, it'll be worth it. Yes, it is the holidays, but sometimes you still need to tell the grandparents that no, your child can't stay up just a little bit longer. I mean, a day here or there might not hurt, but overall getting kids to bed on time will yield amazing dividends. If you don't like the idea of going to bed early on your trip, try to let the kids sleep in each morning to compensate. As long as they are getting enough sleep, everyone will be a lot happier. Staying in a hotel or with family that make it easy for you to stick to a schedule helps a lot, too. Sometimes being the bad guy pays off...if you know what I mean.
2. Pack Smart
Overpacking is all too easy with kids, and can make traveling a nightmare. On the other hand, you'll sure be sad if something comes up and you forgot Important item A, B, or C. Do your best to think ahead and pack your bags accordingly. Do you really need to bring all of the Paw Patrol books, or would one or two suffice? Keep in mind, too, that you'll be bringing home gifts that will likely entertain your kids on the way home. If you do bring toys/books/etc. for entertainment en route, opt for items that are lightweight, small, and take up minimal space. It's always a good idea to bring medications along, especially since the winter season makes you more susceptible to illness. A few doses of child's Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and cough medicine are smart to bring, along with items like the Nose Frida. Here's hoping you won't need it, but it's good to have these things on hand, should the need arise. As always, keep the items you need immediately well within reach; tissues, medicine, diapers and wipes are all good places to start. Snacks and toys come next, along with a good coat to keep warm (depending on where you're going). It's not just about what you bring, but where you put it, too.
3. Don't Over-Schedule
Whether you're going to visit and stay with family, or you're just driving up to Grandma's house for the day, there's a tendency to fill your days to the brim with family activities and events. When you account for work and other holiday parties, Christmas shopping, and catching up with this friend or that family member, it easily becomes too much. This type of over-scheduling takes a toll on everyone, including the kids. Unless you want to end up with whiney, tired, and unruly kids, try to avoid the full-to-the brim holiday weeks. Instead, cut out the tertiary activities. Keep your holiday parties to one or two, and politely decline on the rest. With all the time you save by not going to every little event, you can spend restful and valuable time with your own little family--making meaningful holiday memories rather than overextending yourself and feeling overwhelmed. This time of year, it's more important than ever to say "no" once in a while, and say "yes" to more unstructured family time.
4. Take PrecautionsAgain, sickness is a huge issue each holiday season that causes undue stress to many families. If you have sick kids, no one is sleeping well. In addition, you'll miss out on plenty of fun activities and be wasting your holiday by tending to sick kids while maybe suffering yourself. Here are some suggestions given by the CDC:
- Wash your hands (and your kids' hands, too!)
- Eat healthy foods (avoid overindulging in sugar and desserts/candy)
- Handle and prepare food safely (food-borne illness is all too common during the holidays)
- Keep warm (dress appropriately for the weather)
- Get the flu vaccine (and get up-to-date on all other immunizations)
- Watch your children
As you observe and carry out these steps, you'll protect your family from a great many illnesses common around the holidays: flu, croup, stomach bugs, fever and coughs, colds, and food poisoning. It seems like common sense, but a little bit of common sense goes a long way in keeping you and your family healthy.
5. Accept that You Can't Control Everything
Just like with anything in parenthood, life and holiday celebrations often throw you curveballs and things don't always go as planned. If you can be flexible while also preparing and staying alert, your holiday will be much more enjoyable. In the end, you can't control everything, but you can do your best to prepare and stay aware. This type of attitude will help you manage your stress and keep you from not losing your mind altogether. Take some time to do yoga, meditate, exercise, or go on a walk. Do whatever keeps you sane and helps you stay calm despite the holiday craziness!