The demands of the holiday season can leave caregivers and parents with little time and energy for our children, even when most of the shopping, decorating and rushing around we do is for them! More than 75 percent of America's children say family members, teachers, coaches and community leaders are their role models, according to the State of Our Nation’s Youth survey by the Horatio Alger Association. No adult wants to model behavior that says the commercial aspects of the holiday season are more important than the people we love. With that in mind, parents and caregivers can make the holidays a time to recommit to building bonds with their children.
Here are five simple tips for creating positive interactions with children in December and throughout the new year.
1. Schedule time one-on-one time each day with each child. During the holidays, much of the time we spend with our children will be running errands, visiting family and going to school and community events. These activities can provide meaningful quality time, but kids still need to play, and they want the adults in their lives to play with them. Putting play time on your calendar will help you make it a priority.
Let the child pick the activity, and often the simplest things are the best. Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, Amy McCready, calls this “Mind, Body & Soul Time” and she writes that it is an effective tool for “giving your child the emotional connection he desperately wants and for increasing your child’s feeling of belonging and significance.” She recommends 10 minutes twice a day, but if you can’t schedule that much time with each of your children, she recommends starting small and working up to it.
2. Use travel time to talk and listen. Whether it’s short trips to the mall or long haul to visit family and friends, parents and kids in the car, on the bus, or walking around town a lot during the holidays. This can be a great time to talk and listen to your children. Fred Peipman Ph.D., a contributor to Psychology Today, writes that kids are more willing to open up when they are in the backseat or passenger seat and do not have to make eye contact. Also, parents have a captive audience and have more control over distractions. So, parents should buckle up, turn off the radio, and tune into their kids for some great stories.
3. Don’t overschedule activities during the holidays. There are so many concerts, gift exchanges and service opportunities during the holidays, many families could be busy most nights in December. McCready recommends limiting the number of holiday activities your family attends to avoid cranky kids and parents.
“While it might seem like the more fun and festive approach to say, ‘yes’ to everything, let your family enjoy a few well-planned activities over a million rushed ones,” McCready writes on her blog. “Space them out on your calendar, and plan some relaxed family downtime in between so kids and can rest up. Remember, they’ll also need their energy to actually celebrate the holiday!”
Also, ask your child what he really wants to do during the holidays. Your child may love going to Breakfast with Santa, but he may simply prefer to stay home in his PJs and eat pancakes with you.
4. Give your kids lots of hugs. We all need lots of positive, physical, human touch – and kids need it as much or more than adults. When parents are busy, stressed and tired during the holiday season, it can be easy to go through the day and overlook opportunities to hug your child. Think about morning hugs, leaving for work hugs, hugs when they are sad, hugs when kids want to celebrate, and, of course, good night hugs.
5. End the day with bedtime snuggles. By the end of the day, parents and care givers are often as tired and cranky as kids are, but adults should resist the urge to rush through the bedtime process. This can be a meaningful time to read together, snuggle, sing and help your child relax after a busy day. It only takes a few minutes, and can help your child feel safe, secure and loved as he drifts off to sleep.
The Kaleidoscope Project recommends teachers and childcare providers share these tips with the families they serve.