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"My purpose for My Baby Compass is to give you peace of mind through guidance you can trust."-Kathy

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From Naughty to Nice

Strategies to Make Everyone’s Holiday Happy

The holidays are a time for family, but it can backfire and make mom and dad feel overwhelmed and overextended.  Little ones are looking anxiously at the presents under the tree, and they don’t understand the concept of time and delayed gratification.  Moreover, sugar seems to be in abundance which can disrupt a child’s healthy eating habits.  And relatives who are excited to see the baby are upset when they aren’t given a warm welcome.  So, what’s the solution?

Prepare your children for special events.

Counselors recommend that families sit down and figure out what to expect over the holidays.  Donna Henderson, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University recommends, “Eliminate what is not absolutely necessary and celebrate the things that are important to the family.  Involving children in the planning and preparation eases some of the sense of things being out of control.”

This works well by using a visual calendar and making pictures to represent special occasions and crossing out the days on the calendar as they progress.  This exercise will help children prepare for what is going to happen next. (Refer to Chapter 5 in My Baby Compass – Birth to Two)

Stay within your financial means.

If money is tight, small trinkets are just as exciting to a toddler.  Opening the gifts is the best part.  If your child is older, exchanging names with other family or friends can eliminate the number of presents to purchase. Emphasize the idea of giving rather than the idea of receiving (refer to my previous posts for fabulous charity ideas).  Be honest with your children if you are having difficulty in this tough economy.

Be ready to deal with disappointment.

“For some kids the letdown of opening all their gifs is a natural experience,” says Leslie Petruk, director of the Stepping Stones Counseling and Consulting in Charlotte, N.C., “Just acknowledging that, letting them talk about it, will help.”

She also recommends not giving them a big lecture about the “starving people in Africa…” and causing shame.  Children under the age of four have a difficult time understanding their emotions and feelings.  Disappointment can also result when siblings receive a present that looks desirable to their other sibling.  Try to be aware of this when you are purchasing toys and electronics.

Try to stick to a normal structured routine.

Children like routine more than we realize.  Try to keep the same bedtime to prevent the child from becoming overtired which can lead to various forms of misbehavior.  This includes normal meals with regulated sugar intake.  This sounds easier than it is to carry out.  More than a third of our children are overweight in this country and so it would also be a good idea to have a recreational activity to offset all the calories.  This can include going for a walk, riding a bike or going out bowling. The physical exercise will help release that excess energy.   Keep pies, cookies, cakes and bars out of sight and replace them with fruit, cut-up veggies and healthier snacks.  Let the children know ahead of time what and how much they can eat if they are old enough to understand this concept.

Have activities planned to keep the kids busy.

This can be as simple as toys that work in a group.  This can include balls, miniature bowling pins, paint sets, bubbles and simple musical instruments. Toys that can be duplicated work well in a group of young toddlers that don’t understand sharing.  Planning a group party using cooked gingerbread men can provide fun and a healthy snack by decorating the cookies with raisins, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. Refer to the My Baby Compass Birth to Two, Two to Four, and Four to Seven for appropriate developmental toys and quality time activities.

Prepare your infants, toddlers and far away relatives for a meet and greet session.

Show pictures of relatives that live far away and let your children hear the names of the “strangers” many times before they arrive.  Place pictures on the refrigerator and tell stories about how you know each other and where they live.  If you have a new baby, use what I call a “good -to-go bag” (refer to Chapter 5 in the My Baby Compass, Birth to Two book) to introduce the new person by using an irresistible toy they can play with together if he is reluctant to engage.  Give your child time to get acquainted and don’t force him to give relatives or friends a hug if he is not comfortable.

Happy parenting this holiday!

– Kathy Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series

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