by Marcia Mangum Cronin
The holidays are a time of magic and excitement, especially when seen through the eyes of a child. But just as quickly as a child can switch from joyous bundle to screaming terror, the holidays can turn stressful or even nightmarish if you aren't careful.
Schedules and routines often fly out the window during the holidays. That can contribute to the fun and excitement and memories, but it also can cause emotional upheaval and physical accidents, if things get out of control. As parents, it's our job to keep our children physically and emotionally safe, even when we're extra-busy and possibly overwhelmed.
Because the emotional side is sometimes more complex and not as obvious as physical safety, I'll talk about it first. Don't get so wrapped up in your to-do list that you neglect your children emotionally. Sure, there is a lot of shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking and entertaining, but don't let the little ones get lost in the shuffle. They don't understand why you're suddenly so busy. They still want your time and your hugs and your bedtime story.
If they don't get their usual dose of love, they may start acting out. Kids can sense stress and tension at a surprisingly young age, and they may respond accordingly. This can range from a fussy infant to a temper-throwing toddler to a misbehaving child or even a troubled teen. If you notice your child's behavior changing for the worse, stop and think about how you've been treating him or her. Has your behavior changed? Have you been too busy to play or give the attention to which your child is accustomed?
Though kids like their routines, most of them can be flexible. If you don't have time to get down on the floor and play, maybe you can involve your child in helping put bows on packages or cutting cookies with you while you bake. If they are really too young to help, you can either cross a few things off your to-do list or ask friends or family for help.
Asking for help can also ensure physical safety for you and your child. Doing all the chores associated with the holidays—shopping, decorating, cooking, baking, entertaining—is hard enough under the best of circumstance, but if you constantly have little ones in tow or under foot, it can be dangerous. It only takes a second for a child to do a header out of a shopping cart (believe me, I know) or to reach for a hot pan on the stove. Sometimes you need an hour or two of uninterrupted shopping or cooking time.
If you can't afford a sitter, ask family or friends if they can help. Other moms may be willing to swap time with you. You can shop or cook one evening and then return the favor the next day. And when the busy day is done, take a moment to tuck your little ones in and read them a story—maybe a favorite holiday tale.
Next up: We'll talk more about some seasonal household hazards and what you can do to keep your children physically safe during the holidays.