I have a difficult child. He gets frustrated easily and then anxiety and anger ensue. I write about him sometimes, but not often, because it’s complicated and raw, and not often enough because I know I’m not alone and we need to stick together in this parenting journey. He is fabulous in so very many ways but the holidays can be tough for him.
We have learned over the years that this season brings about his anxiety, and consequently the worst in him.It’s all just too much!
All the everything!
I have to brace myself around the second week of October and can’t really exhale until mid January when all traces of celebration have been put away and we are detoxing and back to normal.
Here is what I know about my child:
Structure is key.
Routine is key.
The less excitement, build up, and surprises the better.
Good nutrition is paramount.
Grace and mercy are as well.
Jen Hatmaker wrote a blog last year about children who sabotage big events and it hit the nail on the head for me. She gets it! She encourages us to, “Keep big days (and seasons) simple.” and not to “over schedule or over hype things.” I could not agree with her more. The excitement of the season can get the best of even the most agreeable child (and some adults for that matter.)
For me there are a few biggies that can ruin the holidays for you and your kiddos:
1 Overdoing it. – It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, leaving you and your kiddos overwhelmed and overstimulated. There are events and activities and parties, plus all the shopping and baking and decorating. You can literally have a “thing” every day or night for weeks on end! It messes with the family routine, which can be very unsettling for some children. The never-ending excitement and the go! go! go! pace of things, can be too disruptive.
Don’t over schedule yourself and don’t let excess take over.
It helps to know your family’s limits. We are a hot mess around here if we do too much in one weekend, let alone all holiday season. We require lots of down time and moments to recharge and refuel. We don’t do well (especially my son) when we run on empty or push ourselves to the point of exhaustion and stress.
Knowing your limits and setting boundaries is a good idea. Be okay saying, “No” or sitting out of something. Try picking just a few of your favorite activities and making them meaningful for the whole family. Check with family members and make sure the pace of life during this season is okay with them. If not, slow it down. You’ll be glad you did. (Or your whole life just might look like one big Toddler Target melt down.) (Ask me how I know…)
2. Overlooking the true meaning of Christmas.When did Christmas become so flashy and material? There are years when we have been way too busy and I am left feeling empty when it is all said and done; wondering if I gave Jesus his due. Did the family know we were celebrating the coming of King Jesus? Would I celebrate a family members birthday with lots of busyness and flash but forget to honor them? Absurd! Don’t over emphasizing the importance of the party and gifts and lists and forget The “Reason for the Season” if you will. Try slowing things down and focusing on Jesus and his birth. Get some good storybooks or DVD’s that tell the Christmas story well or just read straight out of the Bible. Talk and pray about what you learn and enjoy the wonder of the miraculous season, because it is a really big deal! Go to church together as a family and honor the Lord in that way. Focusing on Jesus together not only brings perspective but peace and hope and unity.
3. Overloading them with sugar. This is a big one for me. There are some folks who think that sugar does not affect kids adversely.
“You do you!”
I could video my kids (all of them) before during and after a fair amount of sugar and the proof will be evident. During the holiday’s they act like crack addicts holding me hostage while I pretend to entertain my relatives. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I dread celebrating with “treats”. I was at a Christmas event last year where there were crafts, cookies, hot chocolate, and Santa Clause to take pictures with. All the kids were running around on a sugar high totally ignoring Santa. They were clearly over stimulated and over sugared! I had to round them up and point them in the right direction like we were playing a drunken pin the tail on the donkey game. And then sometimes…. we scold them for their behavior.
Dare I suggest we just have a special treat on Christmas Eve?
Okay, maybe once a week?
4 Overlooking them. Last summer while on a family vacation my son was being particularly difficult. Looking back I could tell that he was overwhelmed and anxious from being out of his comfort zone and going, going, going, with lots of stops and family visits. (Also lots of eating out.) The situation finally exploded and I told him that his bad attitude was ruining everybody’s fun time, to which he responded. “WELL IT HASN’T BEEN A FUN TIME FOR ME!!!!!!” It was then we realized that one person’s version of fun might not be everyone’s. Of course as parents we can’t please everybody, especially in a large family, but I know when I am distracted, busy, stressed, rushed, late, cooking, wrapping, drinking, (all with the best intentions, and with the kids in mind right?) my children do not have my attention.
They feel bored.
They feel ignored.
They feel unimportant.
They feel overlooked.
Friends, your holiday season will never look perfect and neither will mine, but we can step back and take a look at what might be best for the family as a whole and maybe what doesn’t need to be done at all. Our families will thank us. I want to make good memories with my children while they are still young… keeping in mind that it will look different for each child is key!