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Jinnae Anderson: Parenting during the holidays: What could possibly go wrong?

Change, even good change, can be stressful. After finally getting our kids back into a somewhat-normal routine of attending school and extracurricular programs this year, parents are now faced with the big holiday break. Schedules are disrupted, bedtimes get later, sugar abounds, and we may be traveling or meeting an increase in social expectations. If parties for hosting and marshmallows for toasting aren’t bringing you the joy you hoped for, consider these six simple strategies to bring good cheer into your parenting approach — and enjoy the positive ripple effects they create in your family.

1. Resistance to change, however understandable, is futile. For a real taste of holiday joy, throw the “normal routine” book out the window and try on the “just for now” one. You simply can’t enforce the usual bedtime when your children are immersed in a board game with Nana, who has come to visit from far away. There are times when, as parents, we need to loosen up, and this is one of them. Trying to fit this unusual season into the usual routine makes for misery. We must ignore the customary rules and allow a little less structure (a nicer way to frame “out of control”) into all of our lives. Let family connections and your children’s happiness be more important than the routine, just for now.

2. Practice self-care as much as possible. If friends or relatives are looking after or playing with your kids, take advantage. Lie down for a nap, take a walk, or enjoy a heart-to-heart with another adult. Say “Yes!” to offers of help, whether it’s about taking care of the kids or an offer to bring a dish to the party. Aim for balance by including a little exercise, rest and quiet time into your family’s schedule. By nurturing yourself well and encouraging it in your kids, you’ll all be better able to handle the irregularities of the season. And as a nurtured parent, you’ll be better able to handle the irregularities in your children’s less-predictable dispositions.



3. The holidays tend to amplify emotions and create false expectations. For instance, maybe you feel like a failure because you can’t afford to buy your kids everything they want. Many adults will say that they never felt poor growing up because, though they didn’t have much, they had love, fun and the joy of being together. Stress is bred by trying to make life other than it is. You can counter this by making presence more important than presents. Take time to be with your kids every day. Share special experiences like a trip to the snow, an evening driving around looking at holiday lights, or surprising the neighbors with cookies. Model for your children that times of happiness have nothing to do with material gain.

The holidays don’t have to be perfect and neither do you or your kids. Instead of “perfection,” allow “good enough” to take precedence in your vocabulary. When parents are more relaxed about the holiday experience, the kids will be as well.
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4. Many times, tantrums and meltdowns are caused by needs not being met. If your child is sensitive to crowds and noise, for example, gatherings can be challenging. Consider ahead of time how you can help meet their needs. In this example, you might plan to arrive early when it’s quieter, so that your child can more easily adapt as people come on the scene. You can arrange for a quiet space should it be needed, and you can plan to leave early, if necessary, without shaming your child. To meet other basic unmet needs, bring healthy snacks, toys to keep your toddler occupied during adult conversations, and give your child 15 minutes’ notice before leaving for home so they have time to adjust to the change.



5. Cultivate the concept of good enough. The holidays don’t have to be perfect and neither do you or your kids. Instead of “perfection,” allow “good enough” to take precedence in your vocabulary. When parents are more relaxed about the holiday experience, the kids will be as well.

6. Lastly, have perspective. The season feels stressful because routines are out of whack and there is a lot to do and see in a small amount of time. Before you know it, though, the holidays will be over and life will settle down. Keep in mind that the craziness is only short-term. In the wink of an eye, the season will be only a memory — though hopefully a magical one.

Jinnae Anderson is the parenting specialist for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Nurturing Parenting 8-Week Series, for parents and guardians of school-age kids

WHO: Jinnae Anderson, Parenting Specialist for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools

WHERE: Zoom calls from the comfort of your own home

WHEN: Morning session Wednesdays 10-11:45 a.m. Jan. 12 through March 2. Evening session Thursdays 6:30-8:15 p.m. Jan. 13 through March 3

COST: No charge to Nevada County parents and guardians

MORE INFO: Email janderson@nevco.org or call 530-238-5608

Jinnae Anderson

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