Holiday Parenting Tips
Holidays bring a lot of expectations for parents. Family traditions, positive memories, and of course well-behaving children are just a few. Which is why holidays are generally a time of stress for most parents.
Let’s face it, kids are more likely to act out during holidays because there is less structure and more stress. And adults are less likely to have patience and more likely to respond with frustration. Add in travel, long visits with relatives and friends, sugary foods, interrupted sleep schedules and you’ve got a recipe for tough times.
So here are 5 holiday parenting tips to help you thrive during your holiday season
1. Readjust Your Expectations
Come to terms that things may not work out exactly how you would like them to. Take a moment to recognize a lot of things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person. And then come up with the next best thing you know you or your kids can do. This will help take some of the pressure off. And make everyone feel more successful when things do work out.
2. Take A Break
If you are stressed, the whole family feels stressed. So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during holidays.
And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother holiday, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.
Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Better yet, use the time before the holiday as practice. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are going into your holiday with a full tank.
3. Practice Self-Compassion
It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions that a lot of people feel everyday. Even during holidays when you are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. It is also okay to feel the grief of not having things go the way you want or for traditions being changed.
What can help you through these tough emotions is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others may also be struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time.
And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend.
Need more of a push? Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. And that helps lower your stress and decreases your anxiety. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. So you have a higher chance of actually enjoying the holiday with your children and family.
4. Move Your Body
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving.
The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body's stress cycle.
It's easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when you are running from one thing to the next. But when you exercise and bring your heart rate up and then stop exercising and your heart rate comes back to normal, it is a natural signal letting your body know to stop its stress response. When you can get your body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in your system. Less cortisol allows you to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives you more control over your emotional regulation, making it easier to keep your cool. Which is a win for you and your kids.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. And staying in the present moment can help cut down a lot on stress. It can also help you reset so you can appreciate the things that are going well.
Now if you aren’t into mindfulness or feel like it is too difficult, stick with me for a moment. Because anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment, noticing your thoughts/feelings and then letting them go. So it is okay if you think about things as you try to be mindful. Simply acknowledge your thought or emotion and then try to let that thought or emotion go.
For beginners and for kids, I like to help teach mindfulness through exercises that engage the senses. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see/notice, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.
Another good option is doing 10-20 jumping jacks. Then rest your hand on your heart and focus on how your heart rate comes back to normal.
Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion takes time. But the benefits are worth it, so give it a try.