Ways to Make Holidays Better for Kids
Tips for keeping kids happy and able to enjoy the fun
Rachel Ehmke; Adapted from Child Mind Institute
It’s easy for children to be smitten with the magic of the holidays. Fun presents. Extra sweets. A vacation from school—there’s a lot to like. But with the freedom and excess of the season, sometimes kids can get a little carried away. For most families, there will be a point when the kids get overtired and cranky, or greedy about presents. Or would rather play a video game than talk to Grandma. Here are some tips to keep kids happy and ready to enjoy whatever the season brings.
1. Gifts, gifts, gifts: Getting presents is a high point of the holidays for any kid, but they shouldn’t be the only focus. As adults we know that giving presents can be just as rewarding as getting them. We shouldn’t wait to teach that lesson to our children. Even when kids are too young to buy a present, they can still make one. Or help you pick out something. Some of my best holiday memories are of helping my father look for the perfect gift for Mom. Also, combing the mall to look for presents with my siblings as we got older.
Volunteering, participating in a local toy drive, or giving each of your kids a little money to give to a charity of their choice. These are all great ideas for getting children in a more generous mood. Also, remember that the best gifts that you give your children probably won’t be the material ones. Take time for the whole family to get together to play a game, watch a movie, or decorate sugar cookies. These are the things that kids remember as they get older.
2. Let them help: There’s a lot of extra work to do around the holidays like putting up decorations, cooking big dinners, throwing parties. The Martha Stewart in all of us can take over, but it’s important to take a step back and make sure our kids are included.
Children can help set the table, decorate the house, and wrap presents. If they’re too young to wrap, they can help by holding down the paper or getting the tape ready. There’s always something kids can do. And at holiday time, the preparations are often as fun and as meaningful as the end product. Plus, this way kids won’t feel left out or be glued to the iPad for hours.
3. Keep routines: We love the holidays because they give us a break from the everyday. However, that can also make them stressful, especially for kids who find routine comforting. Try to keep some things constant. Kids still need snack time. They still need special attention from you. They still need a chance to unwind before bedtime.
At family gatherings when they notice the kids are “getting antsy,” psychologist Rachel Busman says she and her sister did the following. They would give them their baths, get them into pajamas, and turn on a movie. “We know when they need to wind down, we won’t be judged for excusing ourselves from the table to do these things,” she says.
4. Remember they’re kids: Some holiday traditions depend on kids being on their best behavior. For example, lengthy services, parties with lots of strangers, elaborate meals. These meals may not appeal to picky eaters. Try to keep those to a minimum and customize festivities for your kids’ frustration level. Don’t schedule more than one demanding event in a day. Make sure to include physical activity and plenty of downtime. Your kids will be grateful — and so will you.
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Click here to watch Dr. Deborah Gilboa give advice on how to make your child happy during the holidays without spoiling them too much.