Turning Turkey Time Into Family Time for Kids
We strive to continue supporting our patients beyond their fertility journey and into parenthood. One of our resources for this support is our on-staff parenting coach Tiffany Paul. This was originally published on her website yourfamilyhappier.com, reposted here with permission.
You guys I LOVE Thanksgiving. I think it is the perfect holiday...themes of gratitude and family with a feast at the center of the celebration, I mean come on! It's like it was designed just for me. I also love that it's non-religious so anyone can make it a part of their lives, regardless of any other personal dogma or beliefs. So, I know we all have our lists going and we've consulted our recipes and are stocking up on butter, but have you thought ahead to how to help your children through it? Lots of people, travel, and a break in your routine, can add up to make it kind of stressful on the little people. Here are some tips for making this wonderful day truly full of love and joy for everyone!
Set expectations. Make sure your kids understand how you expect them to behave. If you're having a nice sit down dinner with grandma's china, let them know that you will all be using 'restaurant manners' and practice at home a couple days before T-time. Explain WHY you are going to be more formal and let it be fun. Explain the schedule of events (especially if you are travelling) and let them know that some of their cousins might have different rules than your family, but that your family rules still apply.Talk about what they should and shouldn't say if they don't like that casserole that Aunt Pearl made, or certain areas of the house that are off limits. When they know what you want them to do in advance, they have time to internalize it and prepare themselves for self-regulation in these situations.
Prepare for the onslaught of family. Talk about who will be there, and show pictures of family members that you haven't seen for a while. Putting faces to names will definitely make kids feel more comfortable with what can sometimes be a revolving door of extended family and sharing stories about various people is a fun and sweet way to connect your kids to the people you love.
Practice setting limits. Make sure your children know that they absolutely do NOT have to hug or kiss anyone they don't want to. I really do feel passionate about this. Talk about how they can be respectful when Great Uncle Bert is coming in for a smooch (offer a high five or a handshake instead!) or Grandma just really wants to have a kid on her lap. If you have a new baby that you don't want passed around, plan to babywear. Works like a charm to keep baby feeling safe and calm and keeps well-meaning relatives hands off!
Ditch the kids table. I just really feel like this is a family event, and I have never understood why people would want to segregate certain members of the family. The kids feel banished, the parents of small children end up bouncing up and down to help their children, it's polarizing and chaotic. If you can make space for everyone to eat together (table rentals are CHEAP!), it is sure to be easier and more enjoyable for all members of your family. This is how cross-generational relationships are made and it really can be a special time for everyone!
Be thoughtful. Know that these big gatherings can stress kids out and try to make it as easy on them as possible. Make sure they get some down time each day, the little ones get their naps, and if you can, stick to your bedtime routine as much as possible even if they are staying up late. Be sure they get outside at least a little each day (we have a big family walk after dinner and before dessert each year!) and are having healthy foods--I know it's a special occasion, and I am all for a little pumpkin pie, but a pack of constipated, sugar-high kids is not going to be easy to deal with! So moderate the sugar a bit and make sure they are having some veg and protein to balance it all out.
Take it easy. Don't get too stressed out yourself! Make sure you are not over-commiting, and if you're in charge of cooking a lot of the food, don't also be the only adult responsible for your children! Get help with clean up, delegate what you can, and say 'no' when you need to. Remember, this is a time for pleasure!
Most of all, happy families, enjoy each other. Do whatever you need to do to truly soak up all the good stuff that family holidays offer!