Your kids on holiday: Tips for staying sane

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By Danette Vernon

It’s Christmas and school’s out! Is it “Whoopee!” or, “Oh no!” at your house?

Either way, what might you do to maintain or keep your sanity?

Keep your children’s sugar intake low, whole food intake high, make sure they get enough sleep, and as much time outside running around and playing as possible. It’s also recommended that you involve your child in household activities or chores such as folding laundry, setting the table or making cookies. Perfection is not the goal, togetherness is. Make each of these activities into opportunities to praise and talk with your child. You’re not just folding laundry together, haphazard as their efforts might be, you’re building a feeling of competence and being liked and appreciated by you, the “Queen or King” of their world.

Have fun! But when the moment strikes wherein you need your child to do something, here are a few suggestions to keep the holidays at home merry and bright.

1. Get your child’s attention with a clear, short directive such as, “Look at me,” before even bothering to give a direction. Only give a directive one time. If there is no follow through, get up, and take action. This alone will pay dividends for years into the future.

2. Many children have trouble with transitions, such as turning off a favorite program, leaving the house, or going to bed. Provide incremental warnings, “It will be time for bed in 15 minutes” … “in five minutes,” etc.

3. Another example of how to lessen the trauma of transitions is to allow the activity to continue, but for a stated number of times. Consider the transition of leaving the park, you might say, “We need to go home in five minutes, but you can go down the slide three more times.” Count with your child and then leave, as agreed upon. Again, enjoy yourself.  “Count” in your best Sesame Street character voice!

4. Does your child have a melt-down if told no? Then consider providing a “yes” within your “no.” Case in point, if your child wants a treat, try, “You can have it, just not now.” Then, name the time they can have what they want, “You can have some candy after you take a nap.” Keep your word.

5. If your child uses a whiny–type “noise” as a method of request, respond with, “Use your words,” and then pleasantly request a “please” before handing anything over. Always. Repeat the full sentence that the child should use as you hand the child the item requested. That is your ultimate goal — the full sentence. Remember, you are not engaging in a test of wills, but utilizing a teaching opportunity, so no need to allow yourself to be anything but “pleasant.”

6. Make them work for what they ordinarily get anyway, instead of providing something special for good behavior. If you were going to allow your child a Christmas cookie after dinner, why not get something for it — or two things? Such as they have to clean up the living room AND they have to WAIT until after they take a bath. Make what you want in exchange measurable. Avoid something vague like “being good.”

7. Never promise a consequence you can’t deliver, or try scaring a child into doing what you want. For instance, “If you don’t go to sleep you’ll never see grandma again!” or “If you don’t behave, I’ll have the doctor give you two shots next time we go!”

8. If they misbehave, remember, time out generally equals one minute per year of their age.

With these behavior tips in mind, happy holidays to all the busy families spending time together this year.