It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so the song goes. To give the lyric a little street-cred, we asked the trusted StrollerTraffic Expert Panel for tips on what we can all do to get ourselves—and our tots—through the holidays safely, peacefully, joyfully, and in style.
Our sanity-saving behavioral experts at Seedlings Group dispensed some smart advice on surviving long visits with extended family. “Many parents fret about the potential repercussions of holiday revelry, particularly when it comes to the aftermath of constant praise and coddling (not to mention sweets overload), at the hands of the grandparents,” they say. Here are their tips on managing the in-laws.
Get on the same page as your partner—before the holidays. Were you upset with how your mother-in-law disregarded the baby’s sleep schedule at your last visit? Where does your partner expect to spend Christmas morning? Whose family’s services will you attend? When you and your partner can agree beforehand on how you want to spend the holidays with extended family, everyone will benefit—even the best attempts to hide stress are perceived by children.
Prep the grandparents. Talk to your children’s grandparents about their expectations and desires for the holiday. Do they hope to have time alone with their grandchildren, or do they feel put out by your childcare expectations? Would they like to share some of their own family traditions? Are they willing to come to your house, or were they hoping to celebrate at theirs? Failing to communicate openly with grandparents can breed resentment and tension.
Try to relish in the good of grandparents. The incredible benefits of grandparent bonds with grandchildren should outweigh any discomfort you might experience as a result of short-term schedules not being followed or rules respected. Most of the time, grandparents have our children’s best interest at heart and over time, can be incredible teachers, providing a sense of cultural heritage and family. For younger children, grandparents offer safe opportunities to develop independence by separating from parents and caregivers, either through overnights or even day activities.
Remember that schedules and nutrition aren’t grandparents’ responsibility. Take things into your own hands: rather than getting upset that there is no organic whole milk in the fridge when you visit, arrive with the items you feel strongly about. Collaboration is key. Call ahead to let grandparents know when the best times are to start meals, based on your child’s moods (n.b. mood is more persuasive than nap schedule, since no one wants a cranky child at the table).
Let them bend the rules, a little. Almost everyone can recall special times or traditions they shared with a grandparent. Truth be told, often those fond memories include the forbidden that only grandparents allowed, like staying up late to watch old movies, having pancakes for dinner, or ice cream sundaes for lunch.
Lower your expectations. Remember that when it comes to what should (or should not be) done, no one will ever be as good at taking care of your children as you.