Keeping the Holidays Enjoyable:

1.  Christmas is our only holiday that is absolutely directed at our children.  Plan activities for both indoors and outdoors and pace yourself.  Don't use up all of your planning in the first day or two.

2.  Be a part of family traditions.  Whether you decide to build a snowman, go ice skating, or watch a favorite movie on television, do it as a family.

3.  Try to have a "yell free" holiday season. Do what you need to, yourself, to keep from yelling.  Get adequate rest, take a breather outside if you need one, get occasional breaks from your children if you need them. 

4.  Respect your children.  Don't ask them to perform or show off unless they are willing.  Let them be themselves. 

5.  Don't get overtired.  Pace yourself and your children and stick to a fixed bedtime schedule.

6.  It's more important that you preserve harmony in your family than it is to sacrifice your harmony to please a relative.

7.  During the Christmas season, children need relaxed and loving time with the family most of all.  One clever idea I read on the internet was to give your children a gift of your time. On small slips of paper, write out some activity for that day which would be done with that child or as a family. Sometimes the activity was as simple as "You get to choose the book we read before bed." Other slips included:

Shopping with Mom
Shopping with Dad
Lunch with Mom
Lunch with Dad
Family walk after dark
You choose the family game after dinner
Mom's help making a Christmas gift.

8.  Parents, please don't use Santa Claus as a threat for preschoolers, even though it is tempting.   To threaten a child with "Santa only brings presents to good little boys and girls!" or "Santa is not bringing you anything if you don't behave!" causes stress and at worst is a form of mental abuse. Such statements may have an immediate effect on young children, but no child can be good for an entire month. Empty threats, by the way, always backfire on the parents who make them.  Adults, please don't ask any child if he or she has been good (so Santa will give them presents.)

9.  Parents, do allow a child to believe in Santa, even if they know "the truth."  Santa is the magic of love and joy and we are never too old to be awed by magic. Pretending is good for the imagination. There will be plenty of time for reality.

10.  Do choose toys that children can use instead of toys that parents want.   Adults are impressed by toys that do things. Children do not like to watch toys, they like to play with them. Durable, manipulative toys appropriate to a child's age will make a child happy.

11.  Everyone makes a list of possible activities.  Have each family member list the holiday activities that mean the most to that person. Include favorite traditions and foods. Each person must rank the activities by importance.

12.  Don't expect perfection from anyone  -- children, yourself, or your relatives.

13.  Prepare your children in advance so that they know what to expect.  Depending on their ages, you may want to show them pictures of the family member who will be visiting, and you can relive memories of previous visits.

14.  If your children should misbehave, handle it like you would the rest of the year.  Don't worry about being embarrassed. 

15. Don't talk about your child in front of other people if the child is over 12 months of age.   You may need to protect them from relatives that are a bit too demanding. 

16.  Practice any important skills that you want your children to exhibit ahead of time.  If you are going to have a formal dinner, practice weekly saying "please" and "thank you," and to answering simple questions.  Ex: "how old are you," "what's your teacher's name?"

17.  If a child must be corrected, do so quietly without embarrassing the child. An unruly child needs to be removed from the situation, given an opportunity to calm down, provided with some rest time and given some parental attention. Try not to overreact. Family gatherings are no time to prove what a good parent you are.

18.  Take care of your own & don't try to reform other's children.

19.  Always have a backup plan. If you were planning to do something outside with your children, don't default to watching television if the weather turns ugly.  Have some board games ready or go for a walk in a covered mall.

20.  Don't just turn the television on and let the children watch whatever comes on.  Use the television guide from the newspaper, or TV Guide, and pick shows that you want to watch with your children ahead of time.  If you have the opportunity and the resources, you may want to plan to attend a performance of the "Nutcracker," A Christmas Carol, or go out to see the Christmas decorations in your area.

21.  One way to control the give-me's is to limit commercial television. Nothing encourages greed and undermines the spirit of love and caring as much as commercials during children's shows. Find safe channels to watch or better yet, find better things for children to do.

22.  Give children the opportunity to make gifts.  We had a tradition where our children would make up a "coupon book" of activities for their mother including such things as "One free room cleaning," or "breakfast in bed."  During the year, when their mother wanted one of these "gifts," within reason, she would tear the corresponding coupon out of the coupon book to redeem it.

23.  Decide who will help with each activity. If only one person does it, find another activity.   The family must share the work of the holidays to appreciate the closeness of the season. Getting ready for Christmas is the best part. It is not a time to work alone on anything, except secret gifts. Children need the experience of being part of the celebration, not just the recipients or by-standers.

24.  It's OK for adults to be together without children. Children need time without adults. Everyone needs time to be alone at times, even during the holidays.  If a relative offers to help with your children, and if it's a relative who can do so without upsetting your children  take them up on it.  Ask them to take your children for a walk, or to the mall.  You can even have some activities planned ahead of time so that, if asked, you have ideas already laid out.

25.  It's more important that you and your children enjoy holiday.  Don't become a slave to your planning.  Be flexible enough to skip an activity if you are already having a good time.  You may well need that second activity a day or two later.