December 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Parenting children during the holiday season can be very challenging. Sometimes it feels more like the “holi-daze”! As parents, our own expectations of the holidays are often unrealistic. In a perfect world, Christmas is family time. All family members get along well. The Christmas dinner magically appears on the table with an abundance of pies and other home-baked treats for dessert. Everyone gets everything they wanted as they open their holiday gifts on Christmas. Our homes are decorated perfectly. These images rarely match up with reality.

But it’s not a perfect world! Parents should begin by making realistic goals for the holiday. Before the holiday arrives, make a list of the things you would like to do during the season. Then, look at this list and decide which ones are family priorities. Try to limit your “to do” list to three or four activities and then stick to the list!

Don’t start holiday activities too early. Children have a hard time waiting weeks for Christmas to arrive. Do have children make their own wish lists but in addition have them describe the reasons why they want those items. They will begin to think about their requests and to determine which items are really important.

Try to keep your routines, especially for bedtime and meal times. Young children find comfort in routines. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet help children cope with the additional activities associated with the holidays. Decreased child stress helps to reduce parent stress.

There are many ways to involve children in holiday activities. Children can help with holiday baking. Making home-made gifts is a good way to involve children beginning with the plan for the “right” gift, a trip to the local craft store, and then putting the gift together. Children can help wrap presents. Allow children to help decorate the Christmas tree and talk about favorite family ornaments. Get children involved with contributing to a local charity, a homeless shelter, or a hospital. Take children for a drive to see the local Christmas lights. Listen to Christmas music together. Involving children in holiday activities gives children extra parental attention and provides opportunities for parents to talk with their children.

Children love to “help”. Be honest with your children and tell them when you need their help. Make sure your request is age appropriate ie: help making dinner, setting the table, or help with folding laundry.

With some planning and flexibility, any family can enjoy the holidays.

For more information, visit www.mpf.org, www.aap.org, or www.healthychildren.org.

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