Stress is a Contagious Bug Your Kids Can Also Catch
The stress response to the holiday season starts to ramp up just after Halloween. Candy bags are gone (dentist appointments scheduled), and out come the holiday decorations and the pressure to get a plan in place. Perhaps you are starting to worry about your budget. When will you start to prepare? What do you want to do differently this year?
All these questions linger in our minds, and then there is a lovely dance between avoidance and taking action. Breathe first. Then set aside some time to imagine what your holiday could be like. How will it feel? How busy will you be? Remember you are in charge. Make the right decisions for you and your family now.
Start by planning today and stick to a schedule for peace of mind, yours and your children’s.
What your plan looks like is up to you, but make it less reactive and more of a conscientious decision. Happiness won’t come from how many presents you have wrapped—it will come from a mindful approach where you write down what really matters to you. It likely won’t turn out exactly as you planned, and that is okay. Children won’t remember what you didn’t get done, but they will remember how they felt around the holidays.
Our team of childcare educators at Atelier Kids Childcare Centre have five success tips for managing this busy season, inspired by the Reggio Emilio learning approach. We help children explore and discover in order to allow them to create their own knowledge; our advice to you stems from this philosophy, so you can create, encounter, and connect, too.
- Prioritizing sleep, healthy diets and exercise
We all perform best when we make sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet a high priority. Set a reminder on your fitness app for a healthier bedtime that will leave you well rested each day. Our brains manage stress better when we get more sleep. Say “no” to the occasional party in favour of a family hike through High Park, or perhaps exercising your mind by discovering a new family board game or card game! Commit your time wisely—turn off your autopilot signals to respond “yes!” and instead ask yourself the following question before you commit to a plan: Is this going to serve our family best? Don’t over-commit your schedule out of obligation. Choose your family time to be active together. Explore and discover December nature; bake healthy holiday treats to reinvent traditional recipes with healthier alternatives; and finally, rest after a long day of just being together. Set aside time for selecting family activities that include input from all family members. Ask your children for advice; often they see things solutions that we don’t. Your children will feel valued when you bring them into the planning process. It will reduce aversion to activities when children are apart of the decision process.
- Asking for help
Want your children to learn a greater sense of independence? Plan time for them with family and friends without you. It gives everyone a break—even if it is just a few hours. The benefit of this will come when it is time to return to school or daycare. Perhaps your child will be starting daycare in the new year? Ask questions about how they feel when you’re not there with them. Showing that you’re able to ask for help from friends and family to get things done will help your kids see that by working together, and collaborating efforts, much more can be accomplished.
- Be a mentor, not the boss
Our role as parents is to observe (our) children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide opportunities to explore these interests further. Over the holidays, take time to check in with your children to find out what they currently love doing. Ask them questions and have some fun with spontaneous activity led by your child!
Free your open spaces from clutter. Explore your home through the lens of the following question. “Can I encourage collaboration, communication, and exploration here”? Make sure everyone is contributing to the chores and upkeep of the house. Give your children tasks like emptying the dishwasher, sorting and putting away clean laundry. Host a group tidying party with music and silliness. Take time to laugh.
- Enjoy the moment
It is a good reminder for us all to live in the present moment more often. Children naturally live in the moment, and we could learn a lot from them. Take time to laugh more, play more and squirrel away time to do nothing but enjoy your children without the pressure of being somewhere at a specific time. Relax and appreciate the family time.
Bonus Tip from the Reggio Emilia Childcare Centre in Toronto
Finally, be kind to yourself. Perfectionism is overrated. Teach your children it is okay to make mistakes; in fact, it is the best way to learn. Be flexible. Check in with yourself frequently. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?” when making decisions related to your family. It will often lead to better decisions. And a happier family.