Now that Halloween is behind us–and you’ve dealt with your child’s stash of candy–it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, kicking off a season of feasting and presents.
It can be a lot for children to handle. Here’s how to help them navigate the holidays safely and create memories they’ll cherish for many years to come.
Model Healthy Eating Habits
Many holiday celebrations center on sharing meals with loved ones. We treat ourselves to rich foods and sweets in large quantities. Often, food gets mixed up with love–you can’t refuse your mom’s signature sugar cookies because it’ll hurt her feelings. Other times, it can be an obligation as well-meaning family members police how much even small children are eating.
The best way to help kids navigate this season’s treats is to model healthy behavior. Eat smaller portions, and load plates with vegetables first. Look for healthier alternatives to calorie-rich traditional meals and start new traditions that don’t focus on food. Games, volunteering, crafts–those can all be meaningful ways to celebrate.
Curb Meltdowns Before They Happen
Even the most outgoing kids can get overstimulated during the holidays. For sensitive children, it can feel as though every sense is being bombarded at once by twinkling lights, music, visitors, and even strong smells.
And that’s not even taking into account the hype about presents!
Help keep kids calm and happy by slowing your pace and paying attention to their limits. Some children need more downtime than others, so pay attention to warning signs that a meltdown is on the horizon. If they start to enter the “red zone,” make sure you have a safe, quiet space where they can decompress.
Limit sugar intake and make sure they stay hydrated. Consider setting a cap on the number of gifts they get, and encourage relatives who want to buy presents to contribute to a college fund instead.
Talk to Them About Boundaries
Until relatively recently, it was expected that kids would hug and kiss their relatives on command. That’s changed as our understanding of consent and bodily autonomy has evolved. Teaching kids that they have the right to say no to any kind of unwanted affection–even a kiss from grandma–can equip them with an understanding of consent.
Although no parent ever wants to think about it, many dangers to our children come from family members. If you’ll be gathering with family this year, pay attention if your children are uncomfortable around any adults.
Hopefully it’s just shyness or feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, but respect your child’s feelings and needs. If they don’t want to spend time with an older cousin, for example, don’t force the issue.