Holidays: Cheer and Challenge
Over the years, I've discovered that the relationship between holidays and children is often full of surprises, but not always the kind that parents and family expect! When trying to drop off your child at church child care, he clings to your leg. Just when you think your child will love going to see Santa, she cries! When you take your older children gift shopping for grandpa they are tired and cranky before you even get to the store! And, when the "big day" (Birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas) comes, your child has a meltdown or wants to play alone in her/his room. What's going on here?!
Some children feel overwhelmed by the expectations of special holidays and the change in routine they bring (kids love routine, it makes them feel secure). The excitement builds until your child goes "out of bounds," which can manifest by over-active behavior, regressive behavior or anything in between. Thus, the trip to see Santa with noisy, long lines becomes scary. Shopping can turn into a tiring disaster and even a birthday party can bring tears and disappointments. All of which can greatly frustrate parents and grandparents who are simply trying to show the kids a good time!
Through days of cheer and challenge as a parent and teacher, I have found that there are a few things that help children traverse special times in a positive way.
1. Build toward special days calmly and slowly. Advent calendars, paper rings to tear off, calendars for older children, lighting a weekly advent candle at home can pace the season.
2. Make sure your children get free time, sleep and healthy food.
3. Leave space for regular routines when planning special events.
4. Look for ways to build peaceful times into your family's day. Have a quiet reading time near the Christmas tree, discuss plans, pray together, take a family walk, light a candle at the dinner table.
5. Help your children learn to "give" as well as "receive."
6. Set expectations by explaining where you are going and what you will do there.
7. Share the wonder of the Christmas Story with your children at home and at church.
Finally, take care of yourselves. Build in time for rest and relaxation for Mom and Dad too! My wish for each of you is that you and your family experience the hope, peace, joy and love of this Advent season.