Parenting during the Holidays: Ready! Set! Thrive!
Holidays are so exciting. It is a time for the whole family to reconnect and this is necessary especially if most of the family do not live in close proximity with each other. Eid is round around the corner but these tips will work for any holiday with family. Eid is a very exciting holiday and it is such a blessed time to be around family. However, this comes with some anxiety for most parents and then some more for those who have chosen to parent differently or more intentionally. There is this invisible demand for perfection and comparison. And so holidays or time with other members of the family can be overwhelming AND exciting for both the parent AND the child.
There is the stress of traveling with your children, a change in their routines or rhythm for the day, a new space and sometimes this results in more overwhelm than excitement and as such, is a great recipe for tantrums and connection-seeking (We don’t say attention-seeking). There is a tendency to shift to fear-based parenting. Where we tell our children that when they obey us, do as they are told without question and behave well then they get a reward and the compensation for “misbehaviour” is that they lose something or they don’t get something earlier promised to them. This backfires as it further increases anxiety and even erodes the child’s confidence.
So what can we do instead?
Keep your child(ren) in focus
It is supposed to be an exciting time for bonding and you may need to talk to them about the people visiting or the people you will be visiting. The children are the first priority and it helps to keep your actions and inactions child-focused. Let it not become something they dread.
It is so hard to just sit and listen to unkind comments thrown at you or your child. You could smile and excuse yourself. Or you could decide to hold a boundary. Know that people’s one-off comments are not enough to unravel all that you have done to lay a good foundation with your child. However, it is important to decide what you are going to do, maybe it is okay to let this slide or maybe it isn’t okay and there is a need to hold a boundary. What is your child needing? What are you needing?
It is important to have clear expectations. It isn’t just about rules and regulations but let your children know what to expect and who will be there and a possible timeline of events. Children thrive best with rhythms and routines and so much unpredictability can be overwhelming and that never looks good. Go ahead and prep them for social expectations as well. For example, “what do you need to do before you go into any room?” and you can make it fun with some role playing and games.
Consider your child’s personality
If your child is more reserved, they may need a lot of timeouts and that can even be just trips to the bathroom especially if they recognise it as the only private place (And would be better without some aunty yelling that they are going to pee too much or making them the focus of the conversation because they moved in their seat). For a more outgoing child, it could be challenging getting them ready to leave and so it is important to notify them and get them prepared before they really have to go.
Have a CODE word
Sometimes there might not be space for privacy and you child really needs to communicate something to you but they may feel embarrassed to just say it out. You can decide a random word that lets you know that they need a break or some private time with you or they just need space. Feel free to pick any word – ‘Hammer’, ‘Green’, etc. And honour it!
Show yourself some grace
It is a stressful time and it is okay if you feel overwhelmed too. However, if you are unable to stay grounded, your child(ren) can absorb all of that and that will look like more tantrums, and connection-seeking behaviour. So take deep breaths, practice smiling and find moments to slow-down within the day. Holidays can be very fast-paced. Remember, your child depends on you to regulate their emotions.
Peep the food
That sugar-high behaviour can be so unpredictable and the celebrations are filled with so much sugar treats and candies. Be conscious and feel free to step in and hold a boundary. It helps to have healthy choices on hand.
You are the best parent for your child. You are your child’s advocate. Set your child up for success. Don’t put them on the spot asking them to redo something they recently accomplished. Don’t force them to hug or shame them when they ‘forget’ to greet or if they ‘forget’ to say thank you. No need to yell. Just gently remind them by saying, “Thank you Aunty Aisha for the gift or money.” Wait people still give children Eid money right?!
If you have read till here, you are awesome, just because you are trying to do right by your child and I appreciate you.