As parents, we spend a ton of time trying to make the holidays magical for our kids. So, we over-schedule our families, plan holiday events to mimic (or even out-do), the things we did as kids, spend way too much money, and honestly, make our kids do things during the holidays that are totally unnecessary. In the end it's no wonder that we deal with toddler tantrums in the line to meet Santa, picky kids refusing to eat at Christmas dinner, and overtired, overstimulated kids who won't sleep at bedtime. It all makes me wonder how I ever thought the holidays were fun.
Fortunately, according to experts, parents don't actually have to do most of the things that end up derailing their kids' happiness during the holidays. The Child Mind Institute in New York City, recommends resisting the urge to plan too much or deviate from your child's regular routine during the holidays. It likely result in overwhelmed and exhausted kids, and no one will have a good time. Instead of trying to live up to your memories of holiday's past, or desires to put on a curated show for family or social media, it's actually a better idea to listen to your kids when it comes to making their holiday bright. Especially, when it comes to having a say in who they hug or kiss and whether or not they sit on Santa's lap, which can actually teach them some great boundary-setting skills for the future, per child abuse forensic interviewer Esther Friedman at the ABC House in Albany, Oregon.
For more on these and other things to stop making your kids do this holiday season, read on:
Break From Their Routine
It can be tempting to skip naps, or let your kids snack all day during the busy holiday season, but you probably shouldn't. As Seattle Children's Hospital pediatrician Mollie Greves Grow, MD told On The Pulse, "structured routines, even during busy times like the holidays, help parents regulate the emotional and functional changes their children undergo as they develop."
Sit On Santa's Lap
In my opinion, the holiday tradition of making kids sit on Santa's lap when they don't want to seriously needs to stop. Not only doesn't it send a message that they don't have a right to bodily autonomy, but it can actually teach them that you don't respect them or their ability to say, "no," which is so problematic. Friedman suggested skipping Santa if your kid is not into the idea in the aforementioned articled.
Give Hugs And Kisses
Bodily autonomy as a concept seems so basic — everyone owns their own body, and no, means no. But during the holidays, we seem to ask our kids to change their minds about who touches them and how, all of the time, and it sends them the wrong message.
As Friedman noted, giving your kids the ability to say "no," and backing them up can actually help prevent abuse. She wrote, "When we give children the power to make choices about physical contact, it allows them to set important boundaries later and encourages them to speak up if those boundaries are violated."
Wear Uncomfortable Clothes
According to Dayna Abraham at Lemonlimeadventures.com, kids — especially those with sensory disorders — can get seriously overstimulated at the holidays. Making them wear clothes they aren't used to or are uncomfortable can make their day so much less jolly. Rather than making the holidays about your kids looking a certain way, instead, you might make sure they feel their best, by letting them pick the clothes they wear, even if it doesn't mean a frilly dress, sweater, or tie.
Eat Holiday Meals
The holidays can be a nightmare for picky eaters and their parents. But, rather than make your kids clean their plates, Dr. Kay Toomey of the STAR Institute suggested letting your kid eat the foods they like, and not trying to make them do the impossible during a holiday meal. To avoid comments and stares from judgmental relatives, feed your kids first. Toomey advised, "In order to make your holiday meal go as smoothly as possible, feed your Picky Eater their preferred meal separately first."
Smile For The Camera
I personally hate being told to smile, especially when I am having a hard time. Yet, I find myself doing this to my kids all the time, especially around the holidays when relatives are trying to snap the best photo, or I have paid a photographer for family pictures. In a way, this is just like making them do anything else with their bodies they don't want to, with an added expectation that they pretend to feel happy when they aren't.
According to Christine Carter, Ph.D. a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, a better plan is to validate your kids' actual emotions. She wrote, "Even if we don't accept the bad behavior that often accompanies negative emotions, we still want to send the message that all feelings are okay, even the worst ones."
Go Holiday Shopping
If like me, you find holiday shopping with kids to be a circle of hell that Dante omitted, skip it. As Michelle Madhok, founder of momfinds.com and shefinds.com told TheBump, in the age of online shopping, there's really no reason to brave the crowds and put your kids in prime position for a tantrum if you don't have to.
Participate In Family Traditions
When we were kids, it was a given that we attend holiday religious services, parties, and tree-lighting ceremonies. While these things are traditions, they aren't mandatory, especially if your kids aren't old enough to behave or won't live up to your expectations.
The Child Mind Institute reminds parents to remember that your kids are kids. Putting them in impossible situations and then expecting them to act like little adults is not only likely to backfire, but also pretty unfair. Instead, they recommend listening to your kids, and responding accordingly. As psychologist Rachel Busman wrote, "we know when they need to wind down, and no one judges us for excusing ourselves from the table to do these things."
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