Here we are in the last few days of 2017. For those of us who are parents, this tends to present a mix of emotions. Yes, of course, we are excited at the prospect of sharing with our children the traditions and splendor of another year’s end complete with holidays and tasty treats. 21st-century life; however often presents a bit more for us to consider during the winter season and school breaks.
As a parent that works out of the home, you might be also be feeling stress and panic as to who will watch your child while you are in fact working more and then you'd like during his/her break from school. Or perhaps you are a work from home parent who has come to depend on those quiet six hours of the day where you are not necessarily in mom or dad mode. Or perhaps still you are the primary caregiver in your home but most of your brood is in the school system and you've grown accustomed to only having one or maybe two of your children home with you and the idea of a houseful finds you a bit more overwhelmed than usual.
Furthermore, if in your family you celebrate the season with an exchange of gifts you might find yourself either stressed buy financial strain of having gifts you'd like to purchase or concerned as to the quality of gifts you might be giving your children (or that they may be receiving) Yes a microscope might enhance their curiosity and interest in the sciences however they also really, really like nerf guns.
Parenting through the holidays in 2017 is not an easy undertaking. It's really not easy at any time year but for some reason at the end of each calendar year we find proverbial juggling balls of parenthood seem to multiply both the number and size. So how … how can you stop the burden of the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘have to’s' that overrun a parent’s brain during the holidays?
There're three answers to this question: 1) self-care, 2) prioritize, and manage expectations.
Yes, you're reading this right. I put you and your well-being as mom or dad, guardian or caretaker first on the list. Insert the sayings that we're all pretty familiar with here – “you can't pour from an empty cup” “there's a reason airlines tell adults to put their oxygen masks on before helping others” and my favorite, “you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm”. You guys, those things are all true. You're not going to give your children a wonderful winter break or holiday season if you're completely stressed out so before we tackle items two and three first tackle your well-being. Maybe you need to get a run in, maybe you need Night out with your friends, maybe you just need a night of uninterrupted sleep – whatever it is it's the first item on this list because it is essential. You deserve to have some you time. A happy parent is the best gift one can give their child So pick up your new favorite bubble bath, plan that phone call tell your old friend, or take your dog for a walk.
This might be tougher for some - I’m looking at you, Pinterest loving moms (I’m in this group too). Yes, a homemade centerpiece of bedazzled pinecones would be a wonderful project for you and your child providing some screen free quality-time and as an added bonus improve upon their fine motor skills. However, if you're deciding to take on said pinecone on project as well as make homemade apple cider, create the most enticing winter wonderland scene on your front yard, embroider each Christmas stocking by hand for all of your seven family members, get your holiday cards out first because you're in an unspoken competition with your best friend, attending 3 ugly sweater party’s, volunteering in your children's classrooms for their winter projects, volunteering at your local homeless shelter and planning a winter trip to the mountains to see the snow - .you might find there isn’t enough time to get it all done, you know, in addition to all the regular responsibilities of everyday life. So I invite you to write down a list of all the things you could do thing that you can realistically do we'll get to that part about all the things that you want to do before the end of the year. No judgment if this is a a few sheets of paper long. Next, circle or highlight those that are the most important. Then, create a timetable for when you're going to get those done. Now after you've done that if you still find you have sometime you can start to plug in the items of your list that didn't make the ‘most important’ cut.
So, by this point you have and are taking care of your well-being, and got realistic about what you can accomplish during the holiday season. Now part 3, managing expectations, comes to play. You've got to bring your child or children onto the same page as you. One of my favorite recommendations or families regardless of the time of year is to have what I call ‘business meetings’. The goal of the family business meeting is to discuss goals and plans and to share experiences with those in your family. Granted, if you are a parent to kids under five years old this business meeting is not going to look the same as it might for a parent of teenagers. Nevertheless there is a way to have these business meetings with each and every age child, it just requires some tailoring.
During a holiday season family business meeting you might discuss what the kids are looking forward to over holiday break, share expectations as to chores and responsibilities, discuss mom or dad's work schedule and your arrangements for childcare. This is also where you might have to break the news that you're not actually going to get to go to the mountains this year. And if such a statement is made you are going to see some disappointed faces sitting across from you. I’m pointing this out so I can provide you the anecdote: all that especially matters to your children from a newborn through young adults is the undivided attention, unconditional love and support without judgment from their mom, dad, grandparents, guardians or caregivers. So while you might not be able to go to the mountains, you will instead perhaps implement Wednesday night Family movie or plan to find a local Candy Cane Lane to see the lights.
Speaking of lights, can you see the light now the end of the tunnel that is Parenting through the Holidays? You got this.