Can you believe that the holidays are here? In honor of the holiday spirit, I would share with you some thoughts on how to continue to help your child foster independence during this busy, crazy time of year.
Recently I saw a 3 year old girl lying on the floor at a gymnastics center with her mom pulling her pants off like a baby and it made me sad. It is so easy to be in a hurry and just do for your child what will take much longer for them to do themselves, especially with limited time to cook, bake, decorate, shop, entertain family and friends, etc.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to just stop and think about what’s truly important in these moments. Even though your holiday plans may be important, the development that your child is going through is even more important. As a busy working mother of 2, sometimes I feel the urge to go the easy route because it’s faster, and, well, easier. But instead, I have to train myself in the moment to take a breath and let them do it for themselves, no matter how much I have the urge to just get it done.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me and might help you as well:
First, planning is key. As a parent, it saves time to plan ahead and make sure there is plenty of time to do what needs to be done. That being said, allowing children to have plenty of time to follow their routine is crucial. When plans change, or new things come up, it is important to talk to your child about what those plans are if they are involved in some way. An example is if suddenly a relative is going to visit. Talking it through a day or two ahead of time and then providing gentle reminders as the time approaches is showing respect to your child, and it allows him/her to get ready for the event.
Second, involving the children in any of the holiday prep work is a great idea–from cooking and baking to decorating, your child can enjoy this time of year with you and help you make it festive and fun. Again, plan ahead and think about what your boy or girl could do to help out during this busy time of year. Maybe you could bake cookies together or put up festive decorations around the house.
Third, make sure that boundaries and routine are still in place, even if family or friends are visiting. It is so easy to give in and let your child’s routine lax during this busy time of year, such as letting your child’s bedtime be later. But, quite frankly, that does more damage than you realize. Children thrive on routine and need you to maintain it, even if you yourself are eager to let go and “live a little.” As adults, we need times like these to just let go, but children do much better sticking to their routine as much as possible.
Fourth, keep emotions in check. It is so easy to get flustered and overwhelmed this time of year, and the first people to feel it and know it’s happening are our children. They can sense a change in us very easily, and they depend on us to be dependable, to be their “rock” in the middle of a storm. Take time for yourself and make sure you are calm and collected, and if not, ask another adult to give you time to go take a walk or go to another room and take a breather. Sometimes family can push our buttons and it’s easy to get lost in old conversations. Try to remember that you are the parent in charge of your child, and you do not want to disturb the incredible development that is happening.
That being said, if you do get upset, afterwards talk about it with your child in a matter of fact way, sharing with him/her about your feelings without getting into too much detail. It’s perfectly normal for adults to get upset, but we want children to have the tools to recover well from their own negative emotions, so this can be a good teaching moment.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break!