When I had an infant and a toddler, we moved to the mountains and were a good hour away from most of our family (with some members, a full day’s drive away). When our first Christmas away from family rolled around, we found ourselves facing new choices about how best to survive Christmas.
If you are wondering how to manage the demands on your time (Parties! Santa! Presents! Friends! Coworkers! Family!), you are not alone. Whether you’re traveling or staying local, here are a few tips for a baby-friendly holiday that you can enjoy with your little ones.
From baking cookies to gift swaps to church services to holiday lights, everyone has holiday traditions. When your kids are very young, it’s a good time to look at each tradition and consider which are keepers, which can be paused until the kids are older and even which traditions you are ready to let go altogether.
It might also be time to create new options for your little ones. Just choose with care and make sure your schedule also includes down time and a respect for your kiddo’s eating and sleeping schedule. A fed and rested baby is a happy baby!
If you will be hosting, be clear about arrival times and, yes, ending times. One approach that might help is telling family that “Little Susie starts her bedtime routine at 7 p.m., so we will need to wrap up our mealtime by 6 p.m.” Also, don’t be afraid to take up offers of help. If guests bring a side dish or drinks for a meal, if others handle dishes and clean up, that means more time for you to relax and enjoy your child and your guests.
If you are visiting family, especially overnight, consider ways you can carve out a quiet space for your little one. Ask if you can use a spare bedroom for diaper changes, feedings or naps. Have a plan with your partner to signal when it’s time for a drive for just your little family if you need a break from all the commotion. And consider setting up boundaries regarding any health concerns ahead of time.
If you’ve decided this year to put a pause on some activities with family and friends, be kind but firm when you explain that this year, it isn’t for you.
Co-parenting over the holidays
Holiday gatherings are so important to our kids, but can become a point of contention in co-parenting situations. If this sounds familiar, it’s best to make a plan with the other parent ahead of time so kids don’t get caught in the middle. Your attitude toward this arrangement can make all the difference in presenting a positive plan to your child. Unsure how to proceed? We have an excellent class series on co parenting, which includes perspectives for moms, dads, stepdads and stepdads. Contact us for info!
If you will be traveling any distance, make sure you consider best times to travel by plane or on the road. A simple google search can give hints on dates to avoid. For little ones, also pick times that accommodate their sleep schedules.
Packing is a challenge. I recommend packing “just enough” — you can always borrow a washing machine at grandma’s if needed. Consider including only the diapers, formula, etc., you need for a few days and picking up more supplies at your destination. Tuck a change of clothing for everyone (mom too!) in your bag, and don’t forget basic snacks and drinks in case you get stuck somewhere. A stash of simple toys can also help when traveling hours loom. Make sure to include a few well-loved favorites for comfort and also a surprise item or two.
And while it seems counterintuitive, your trip will go smoother and possibly even faster if you plan breaks. On a road trip, it’s tempting to push through a full day’s drive, but your little ones will be happier — and so will you — if you actually stop for meals, bathroom breaks and stretching. Our family used this strategy when driving 10 hours to see family — meltdowns were at a minimum, and the kids arrived happy and eager to hug their grandparents.
Car Seat Safety
If you are traveling with an infant or child, an appropriate car seat is a must! Some airlines and car rentals have car seat options but you should check and confirm on this well ahead of your travel day. If you are unsure how to safely install a car seat or have questions about establishing its use in your family, we have a great course for you! Contact us to watch at home or schedule an appointment to review in our Hamburg or Kutztown office.
In the end, as a parent it is up to you to decide what your child and family can handle. For my family, we tried visiting long distance family that first Christmas and ended up with a cranky toddler and a sick baby. The next year, we established a new family tradition: we stay home on Christmas day and welcome any family member who wants to visit.
For those who can’t, we arrange a day (throughout December or January) to set up a low-key visit. We did return to bigger gatherings as our children grew older and could enjoy the experience, but keeping December 25th as a home day has become our most cherished family tradition.
As you navigate holidays and new traditions with little ones, know that you’re not alone! If you need more tips, please feel free to give us a call.
Also, if you’re looking for additional parenting support, Life’s Choices offers free parenting classes year-round to walk with you through your parenting journey. Our classes provide practical advice for all ages and stages of parenting. Get in touch with us today for more information!