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Keep Your Kids “Grounded” Through Holiday Madness

As joyous of a time that it is, the holiday’s are hectic. No doubt about it! With the kids out of school, all the extra food (and sugar!) around, guests in your home, holiday parties, traveling (time changes, too), and decorations, it’s all very exciting but can be chaotic to say the least! Therefore, it might be hard for your child to wind down in a time of sensory overload.

Whether you use The Elf on the Shelf or the fact that grandma is coming to visit to encourage your child to behave, please realize this is an exciting, yet difficult time for them. The magic of the holidays is so overwhelming and thrilling for your child. It’s up to you, not the elf on the shelf, to keep them grounded!


Holiday tip: Stick to your routine as much as possible, it will help your child!

It’s normal to become more lax about your kids’ schedules and bedtime during the holidays. While you’re attending events and hosting guests it can be hard to stick to your typical bedtime routine. It will also be hard for your child because they won’t want to miss anything.  Please note that this can have a negative impact on them. If they deviate from their “normal” behavior then you should tighten up on their schedule and get them back on track.

This is especially true if you have a toddler. Stick to normal nap, eating, and bedtime habits. This will help to avoid massive meltdowns! With your older children you can make a few exceptions. If they’re behaving well, maybe an extra 20 minutes to do a holiday craft or watch a special show can be granted. Dinner may be on the table later and if you’re expecting this, try a “backwards night” – bath and Pj’s before dinner to save time.

Hint: They will think this is really fun!


Your child relies on school.. even if they don’t know it. It’s consistent, it’s part of their routine, and it occupy’s their mind and body. Make sure you have things for your child to do. Remember, a bored child is more likely to get into mischief! There are many fun holiday activities and crafts you can do with your child.

Martha Stewart has some excellent Kids’ Christmas Crafts here.

Now let’s talk about gratitude! Raising your child to show gratitude is never something to skimp on. It is imperative that during the holidays your child looks at someone and says, “Thank you.” They shouldn’t feel entitled to gifts and honestly, who wants to give a gift to a child that doesn’t appreciate it?

Emma’s Tip: Open one gift at a time. Your family should go in a circle and take turns. Don’t let your child get caught up tearing gifts open left and right. Open one, thank the giver, and then move on. This helps them learn self-control and promote patience.


Also, don’t give too many gifts to your child. Shopping during the holidays can be so fun and exciting, but please don’t go overboard. Just because you can purchase everything they wish for doesn’t mean you should. Limit to something you and your family or spouse agree is reasonable. Kids who receive too much will expect this. Excess breeds entitlement and a serious lack of gratitude.

Encourage your child to help others who aren’t as lucky to be celebrating as they are. Try your own ‘random acts of kindness.’ Your child should learn about giving to others, and the effect they can have on others. Doing something for someone else can really show them that it’s not all about them.

Sure, they’ll make wish lists and get plenty of toys, but what else can they do? Some of my favorite acts of kindness are: giving toys and books, collecting canned foods, baking cookies for an elderly neighbor.. let them come up with something, they may surprise you! See our recent blog for giving back tips and kid-friendly charities.

Your child should contribute to this holiday. They aren’t entitled to all these things without helping out and showing gratitude – and you shouldn’t stand for anything less. Establish these expectations!


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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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