The Holiday Homestretch!
Hello <<First Name>>,
Welcome back to Toddler-land! In Part Three of my holiday series, I have a few last minute tips to make the holiday homestretch toddler-friendly, stress-free and more fun.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Play down the anticipation and embrace the fun of now.
Play down the anticipation. The joy of young children is their exuberance of the here and now. They live in the moment because they have no real sense of time. This means that they don’t wait easily, if at all. So as much as you can, try to minimize the anticipation. This can be a challenge but when you build up the holiday events and gifts-to-come, your child will likely end up in tears and pitch a fit when they don’t happen immediately or appear by tomorrow morning. Instead, embrace the here and now and talk about what’s happening today. When the big events do come, rest assured that your toddler will be surprised and that much happier.
Take a less is more approach with gifts. Families I work with report back every year that by cutting back on or limiting gifts changed their holiday for the better. This has certainly been the case in my own family, too. Toddlers act as if they want everything, but my years of experience have taught me that they don’t really want it ALL. Because toddlers live in the moment, they will tell you exactly what they are imagining and desiring today. But later, even seconds after they ask for something, their wants and preferences change. Today your toddler may exclaim, “I want a big blue ball!” The next day he may say, “I want a train set.” My advice: share in your child’s momentary excitement, but don’t feel compelled to fulfill all of his or her desires (there will be too many!). In fact, it will only backfire, as too many gifts will tend to overwhelm your child, making it difficult to enjoy any of them. I assure you that your child will be thrilled with a couple of well thought out toys and books that he can discover and enjoy with you.
Avoid conditional “be good” language. Many parents genuinely believe that asking their children to “be good” will encourage better behavior. But, I’m here to tell you otherwise and help you avoid the fallout. This kind of conditional language sets your child up for failure and instills feelings of shame. Your little one will worry every day about the possibility of not getting gifts, which can lead to even more disruptive behavior. Instead of using conditional language and stressing that they must be good, assure your child he or she is loved and deserving no matter what, and will have presents on their special holiday (when the time comes).
Include your child in the celebration. Young children love to help and be part of the ‘grown-up’ activities. Whether it’s making simple ornaments, decorating cards, putting up decorations or helping to wrap gifts, these child-friendly activities include your child in the celebration. These activities also teach your child the reciprocal feel-good effect of giving and receiving, and can help to take their emphasis off of the “gimmies.” At a recent holiday party, a friend’s toddler delighted in handing out the adult gifts and ‘helping’ open up each one. Tip: Do not ask your child to help wrap gifts for other children. It will be too difficult for your toddler to understand why the bright, new toy isn’t for them. Skip this battle by giving your child their grandma’s new scarf to wrap!
Embrace Fun. Spend these days and final weeks of the year enjoying the little moments as they unfold, one after the other. Limit the holiday running around as best you can, less presents (truly, your child will be happier with a few small gifts or one bigger extravagance to focus on), less pressure on yourself to do-it-all and perfectly so, and keep your expectations at the appropriate toddler level. Remember, the more relaxed, present and connected you are with your toddler, the happier your child will be.
Need a great gift for friends, teachers or family member with toddlers? Books make great last minute gifts! Signed copies of my book How Toddlers Thrive are available at Bank Street Books for in-store pickup or shipping before the holiday.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday and best wishes as we move into 2018!
And if you found this toddler-centric point of view on routines helpful, I encourage you to leave a comment or question on Facebook or Twitter. Also, let me know what more you’d like me to discuss in future newsletters. What kind of advice would you most appreciate?
For more toddler insight, visit HOW TODDLERS THRIVE and feel free to share what you've read here with other parents on the playground!