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Peace on Earth

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(From the Growing Child "Grandma Says" Newsletter - December 2018)

In many households at this time of year, there is anything BUT the peace of the season. With the additional parental time demands for baking, shopping, wrapping and participating in holiday activities, parents are often overwhelmed with the additional burden of overwrought children, often reacting to the excitement around them, as well as to their parents' stress.

Can anything be done to avoid the holiday meltdowns and increase the joy for both children and parents?

Let's first realize that much of parental stress derives from the near-impossible demands we put on ourselves. Sure, the magazines and commercials flaunt beautifully decorated tables and homes, astonishing arrays of creative cookies, children immaculate in holiday finery waiting cheerfully to open imaginatively wrapped gifts.

Don't be lured into believing that this is what will make your family holidays memorable. Stop and consider what is important to you about the holiday season, and what you want your children to remember.

Define your holiday beliefs and traditions, and stick to those, never mind the media hyperbole of what a holiday SHOULD look like, and half of the stress in the household will magically disappear.

(May I digress for just a moment and suggest that the parental practice of using "Santa-could-be-watching" to manipulate kids' December behavior adds immeasurably to the holiday craziness for kids.)

Also remind yourself about what you know about young children's development, and let that guide some of your holiday decisions. For example, young children's sense of time is shaky at best, and even more precarious when anticipating something as magical as Christmas or Hanukkah, with the attendant goodies and fun.

So even though CVS begins the Christmas celebration the day after they sell off the half-priced Halloween decorations, that hype has no place in the home of preschoolers. If you start talking about visits to Santa Claus and "what-to-ask-him-for" too early, you will have some overwrought children for a couple of months. And whoever invented the need for creative Elf on the Shelf sightings for a whole month no doubt will have a not-so-good place in the hereafter.

A simple calendar with important events marked in pictures - cookie baking, present making, a visit to Santa for those preschoolers who WANT to go - can help the child count the days. (Toddlers often find the prospect of that old man in the red suit far too terrifying, so avoid the stress of starting some Christmas activities too soon.)

Figure out the activities most meaningful to you and your children, and put them on your calendar in red. Everything else can be put aside for a decade or so.

If baking holiday cookies together is a family tradition, make time for that above all else. And remember, with kids it's the shapes and the decorating that is most fun, so skip your grandmother's complicated recipe and go with ready mixed sugar cookies, if that will decrease the stress for you. The children won't know and you'll be more relaxed.

If your tradition is helping children make gifts for loved ones, this is worth setting aside a couple of afternoons, with carols playing in the background.

There is simple paint, pipe cleaner and glue tree ornaments (never forgetting the glitter) that the youngest can make happily, learning Christmas values at the same time - giving to others is joyful, it's the thought and effort that count. And at the end of the afternoon, both you and the children will have had meaningful, relaxing time together.

Lastly, take time for the holiday story books before bed. These are so special, kept on a shelf for just this time of year, and calming in the age-old messages of love and family.

Peace and goodwill to you and your family.

Copyright 2018 Growing Child Inc, All rights reserved.

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