The holiday season can be stressful for even the most laid back of moms. Even if you don’t have a schedule, most families do have a routine or rhythm that helps the days flow. And during the holidays that flow is interrupted. So the question is, do you go with it or try to maintain some semblance of your normal days?
Personality has a lot to do with how well your child adjusts to things outside of the norm. Are they energized by change, or does it drain them? Do they look forward to new things and experiences, or do they fear them? When you’re dealing with toddlers, it’s always less traumatic for everyone when you follow their lead.
For example, my first child finds change exhilarating and exciting. When we would travel during the holidays, she would bounce off the walls and have trouble sleeping when we tried to stick to our regular nap and bedtime schedule. Staying in hotels was miserable, because she would want to check out every little thing and stay up with us, and instead we laid down in the dark at 8pm and stared at the ceiling for two hours until she fell asleep.
Looking back, instead of making multiple trips to settle her down and put her to bed, I wish I would have just let her stay up past her bedtime and crash on her own. The difference likely wouldn’t have been much, and we would have gotten to enjoy more time with family and friends instead of stressing out over bedtime. Even with all the fussing we did over keeping her routine the same, we still had an adjustment period when we got back home.
However, if you have a child that finds routines calming and reassuring, then protecting your schedule as much as possible would give them a sense of familiarity and help ease the transition from normal activities to visits with family and holiday craziness. You can do this by noting when you do things at home, like story time at the library, or going to the grocery store, and try to do similar things where you are staying. If you can’t do similar things, try to schedule activities for the same time of day that works for you at home.
Toddlers are always in flux—when I think I have mine figured out, they tend to hit a growth spurt or get molars, and everything changes. This is a great time to take the time to really be patient and notice your child’s cues rather than trying to just pick a strategy and stick to it.
Keep the schedule light and remember to be flexible—you may have made an appointment for photos with Santa or shopping with grandma, but remember that your child does not share your expectations for the holidays! Be ready to go with the flow and leave yourself the option of saying no when your toddler has had enough.
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls, 6, 3, and 1. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.