Holidays With Kids Series, #4: Staying over with family is not routine

Emma, mom to a 1 and 3 year-old, was a proud member of what she called “The Sleep Police.” Her kids were on a strict sleeping/napping schedule that she would move mountains to maintain. By her own admission, Emma was rigid with her children’s schedules, believing that if she wasn’t, chaos would ensue.

Emma’s holiday plans always involved staying over with family. This wasn’t usually a big deal, except in those years when she had to stay at her sister’s house. Her sister had 4 kids, none of whom were on any sort of schedule. Most upsetting to Emma was her sister’s total disregard for sleep hygiene. Her sister’s kids were often up late and played “musical beds,” falling asleep all over the house. Furthermore, they watched a ton of TV that Emma deemed “inappropriate.”

I hear about situations like this all the time during the holidays. Moms go to stay with relatives who have completely different rules for their kids, and worry excessively about how they will be able to maintain their kids’ routines. Another variation on this is when moms spend holidays with families who don’t have kids, and feel awkward asking to schedule holiday events around their kids’ schedules.

As with all of the holiday advice I’ve been giving you, my advice for moms like Emma comes down to changing your expectations. You will not be able to maintain your kids’ routines at another person’s house. It’s just not going to happen. You can certainly try (and see my previous post about planning ahead as much as possible), but you probably won’t have a ton of success.

Truth is, the holidays are so exciting for young kids that their schedules usually get messed up even if they are staying at home. My son, now 7, still wakes up between 4 and 5 a.m. on any morning he’s excited about something. Which means that by 2 p.m. on Christmas day, he is usually splayed out on my mother-in-law’s couch, looking like he’s gone on an eggnog bender.

You need to expect that the holidays will disrupt your kids’ routines. If you’re going be staying over with family, you’ll have to live under their house rules during your stay. And if you’re staying at home, your kids’ excessive excitement about the holidays will probably mess with things like sleep and eating.

Think of it this way: it’s bad enough if your kids freak out during the holidays (which they often do). Obsessing about keeping them on their routines will just make things worse for you. Consider holiday time as a “vacation” from the rules, recognizing that you’ll be back to your regularly scheduled life soon enough!

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I’m Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, Ph.D., aka DrCBTMom. DrCBTMom.com combines the expert advice of a self-help book with the warmth and readability of a mommy blog.
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