As parents, we want to make the Christmas season full of happy memories. It’s easy to plan TONS of activities and move through the season at high-speed with young ones in tow.
Although there are days when this is necessary, I believe it’s my job as a parent to guard Tiny One’s heart and schedule so she doesn’t get lost in the holiday craziness.
Too many parties, shopping trips, and events can make ME stressed out…imagine what they do to a small child!
I don’t want to force my child into the frenzied, commercialized, Pinterest-worthy, world in which I sometimes reside!
Christmas is stressful enough without extra expectations. Tinies need individual time with us & they are easily overstimulated when lots of things are going on.
I want Tiny One to ENJOY Christmas as a special family time, so I made a plan to protect her during this crazy season:
1) Don’t do it all.
This year, we chose a few traditions to maintain (baking/crafts, church events, and spending time with family). We are also trying a few new things (getting Christmas PJs, and going to the Zoo Lights).
Other than that, we spend most evenings snuggling up to read Christmas books, work on small projects together, and listen to music. Tiny One LOVES this relaxed schedule and is delighted to spend quality time with us most evenings.
2) Enjoy the little things
Tiny One helps me bake cookies, shop for others, and wrap some gifts (creatively). When we want to do something fun, we turn on Christmas songs and dance, we bring a bowl of snow inside to play with, or we make artwork for a family member.
These things will likely create more special memories than a giant excursion would.
Every night, Tiny One asks if we are going to make “tookies” tomorrow. She LOVES helping in the kitchen, and talks about it more than the Zoo Lights we went to see.
Little things matter to tinies, so they matter to me.
3) Maintain rest and routine (as much as possible)
Although it’s tempting to forge on in the midst of shopping, visiting, and holiday excursions, children need down time every day. We keep a regular nap/quiet time at our house so everyone gets rest.
Both sides of our family know that Tiny One naps from 1:00-4:00, and she goes to bed at 8:00. If an event is planned during those times, they know she can’t attend.
We’ve made a few exceptions to this, but we’ve found that Tiny One is much calmer and alert when she’s had a consistent nap/bedtime schedule.
Christmas is much more enjoyable for children when they can rest and recover each day!
4) Balance days and weekends
If there is an event in the evening, we stay home and rest during the day.
If Saturday is full of events, then we plan NOTHING (except church) on Sunday, and vice-versa.
If there are extra things we must attend, we give Tiny One extra rest before/after the event.… or one of us stays home with her while the other one attends.
Even though children love time with family and friends, it’s still energy out. I know families who plan events for their children most evenings and weekends. The children often become fussy, overtired, and/or unable to focus. That makes Christmas stressful for the kids AND the adults.
Balancing busy time with restful time allows children to recover and flourish in the midst of craziness.
5) Stay tuned in & be flexible
Despite our best intentions, some days will be crazy. Naps will be cut short, or (*gasp*) missed entirely. Bedtime may come a little late. It happens.
During big days, I try to stay “tuned in” to Tiny One. If she starts acting up during an event, I bring her in another room and snuggle with her so she can “reset”. If she is acting exhausted or overstimulated, we sometimes leave events early or reschedule our plans.
Obviously, we can’t dictate our whole schedule around Tiny One, but it’s not worth staying two extra hours somewhere if she is miserable or needs a break.
Overall, I don’t want to habitually put my desire for a “perfect” Christmas above Tiny One’s emotional needs.
Young children are unpredictable during big events… but they often behave better if they have low-key schedule, if they’ve had special “small moments” with you, and if their days are restful and balanced.
No matter how well you guard your children from holiday stress, large excursions may end in tears at just the moment you envisioned your family peacefully smiling while angelic music played overhead.
Better luck next year.
Go home and make some cookies.