The holidays are quickly approaching! Are you ready for all the fun and excitement that comes with the season? Even though this time of year seems crazy, I absolutely love it. I enjoy the time spent with family, the sense of tradition and the reminder to be thankful for all that we have. With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s important to prepare for what’s ahead, especially if you have kids.
This time of year is exciting for kids, but it can also take a toll on them physically and emotionally. Changes in environment, routine and diet can affect their health. CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL COLORADO is the leader in pediatric expertise and has shared some great tips to help you and your kids have happy, healthy holidays!
Tips for Long Trips with Toddlers:
Be prepared with many activities that can keep your child’s attention for 5 -10 minutes at a time. The dollar store has great arts and crafts items that are not expensive. Sticky notes, magnetic toys, paper products (plastic cups and spoons), books, coloring books, stickers…anything that’s new to your child will keep them interested, at least for a few minutes.
Bring snacks and a sippy cup so that your child can eat and drink when he/she is hungry without having to wait for the beverage cart. Sippy cups are handy to minimize spills and messes. You can use special treats as rewards for buckling up, staying seated, sitting still, etc.
A change of clothes (or PJs if you are hoping your child will sleep) is good to have on hand. Consider throwing in a change of clothes for you too, especially if your child will be sitting on your lap. Layers are also helpful given how hard it is to know whether it’ll be hot or cold.
Don’t forget your child’s favorite toy/blanket. These important objects make getting through tough moments a little bit easier. Be sure you don’t leave them on the plane or anywhere else. If it’s truly irreplaceable, don’t travel with it.
Try to keep your toddler on their schedule, even if you are crossing time zones. If it’s nap time on the plane, plan for what would help your toddler take his or her nap. Prepare people who are picking you up if your child will need to get to bed right away when you arrive.
When the seat belt sign goes off and it’s safe to walk around, take a few walks up and down the aisle. Have your toddler wave to people or do some counting together.
Consider letting your toddler have a little bit of screen time, especially during times when you can’t get up and move around.
Consider bringing your car-seat on the airplane so that you can safely buckle your toddler in.
Tips for Handling Conflict Between Family Members:
Conflict among family members is challenging, particularly if it escalated beyond what you would want a young child to see or experience. The message of still loving each other even when we are angry is an important one to convey.
It’s best to find a quiet moment to have a conversation with your child about the particular incident. You can explain that when you had the argument with the extended family member, you were upset and angry and lost your temper. It would be good to acknowledge that you made a mistake if you lost your temper or behaved in a way that you don’t want to model for your children.
You can talk about what happens when people get upset and how sometimes they do or say things that they don’t mean because they are so upset. And although you were upset, you still love the person and you will always be family.
This is a wonderful opportunity to talk with your child about what strategies you can use when you are upset to prevent future escalations. Some of these strategies include: stopping, counting to 10, breathing deeply, taking space, calming down before talking about it some more, and apologizing if the conversation doesn’t go well. You might even consider having your child help you think about what you could have done differently in that situation. At the end of the conversation, you can again reinforce that you love the person you had a conflict with and that everyone in the family is working on getting along better.
Tips for Handling Different Rules:
It’s important to talk with your children in advance about the fact that when you are with others, they sometimes do have different rules about what is okay and what is not okay. Even when you aren’t at home, you expect your children to follow the rules you have in your family about being kind to others, using nice words, and behaving.
You might tell your children that rules about bedtimes might change when you are away and rules about treats and sweets can be different over the holidays or when visiting others but rules about how we treat each other don’t change no matter where you are or who you are with. It’s best to talk about this before you are in those situations and to gently and privately remind your children about this when you are with others.
Tips for Eating Healthy:
Ask those in charge of meals ahead of time about planned meals and snacks. Raise the desire to include healthy eating options for you and your family. Focus more on what can be added and not that you want other foods (less nutritious foods to be gone). This approach will help to lower defensiveness. It might also help to ask if there is a chance to be involved with food preparation to include your own options for you and your family. This of course will require more involvement (and work!) but is sometime a helpful way to get more diverse food options served. Lastly, it may be helpful to bring your own (or purchase after traveling) snacks/drinks which can often contribute the most problem from a nutrition standpoint.
Finally, flexibility is needed on your part (you’re asking for the extended family above to be flexible). You may have fewer food options and the holidays may simply be less than desirable from a food standpoint. The time is limited during holiday gatherings and food is only a part of the visit so focus on the positive aspects for your visit. Perhaps when you host a gathering you can model inclusiveness by asking your extended family what can be served to accommodate their eating.
Visit the JUST ASK CHILDREN’S TUMBLR PAGE next Tuesday, November 25th from 9 am — 4 pm MST, where their experts will be answering your and other parents’ questions about traveling with kids, nutrition, healthy eating, and keeping stress-free over the holidays.
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What are your tips for helping kids stay happy & healthy over the holidays?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Children’s Hospital Colorado. The opinions and text are all mine.