The holiday season, with its family gatherings, Christmas lists, and maybe even travelling, can be a little stressful for anyone. It’s inevitably stressful for parents of young children.
Babies and toddlers tend to be very sensitive to sudden changes in their schedule. When family comes knocking at odd hours or you’re trying to adjust to a new time zone, it can feel like all the work it took to get your child accustomed to a consistent sleep schedule is going down the drain. Here’s how to keep yourself and your children from Grinch-like behaviour around the holidays.
You can’t control all the variables, but try to stay on top of what you can. Have to put the kids down for a nap in a new place, or worse, a new time zone? Bring a comfort object they associate with sleep, like a special toy, blanket, or storybook. Steadfastly stick to the parts of their routine that are still under your control, even if this means taking some time out of a party to zip through their bedtime ritual (yes, even if you’re the host—your guests will understand).
Speaking of parties, remember to say no when you need to. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your family is just get to bed on time and get back on the party horse the next day.
If you’re hosting a party, it helps to give your child some space to settle down before heading to bed. Even relatively quiet gatherings can be overstimulating for young kids, so a little quiet playtime in their room or a few minutes of reading should help smooth their transition to sleep. When it comes to accommodating holiday visitors, try to plan ahead with your child’s nap schedule in mind. If the visitors are family or close friends, you may even be able to involve them in nap time—in fact, they will probably appreciate the bonding opportunity! As much as possible, resist altering your child’s typical nap schedule. The 80/20 rule is helpful here: 80 percent of the time, keep the schedule consistent, but make exceptions about 20 percent of the time (or a little more or less depending on your child’s age).
The holidays are supposed to be about rest and recuperation, so more than anything, don’t worry too much! A few schedule interruptions won’t ruin all your hard work, and a positive attitude will definitely help keep your head above water. Enjoy spending time with your loved ones, and remember to take the time to care for your own sleep needs!