Lower you Holiday Expections and Stress

Tis the season for travel. I have to admit that for the mom of a 19-month-old, just the thought of it makes me a little queasy. Not that I don’t love going on new adventures with our little one, but it’s all the work that goes into it. The packing, the planning, the schedules…the nightmares! Shouldn’t it be sugarplums dancing in our head this time of year, not screaming toddlers?

Every year, my family makes the two-hour trip to grandma’s house for Christmas. It’s not really the driving that I dread, but rather the planning before and the attempt to keep our daughter on schedule while we’re there. Schedules are everything when it comes to infants and toddlers. It’s the thing that keeps their tiny little worlds in working order and gives parents a little bit of sanity. However, schedules are rarely ever respected by the Grands. Whether they’re your parents or your in-laws, they always seem to forget that bedtime was an hour ago, or that nap time is 11:00 a.m. “But, she just woke up!” No, you just woke up. She has been up since six. Believe me, I know!

This year, as I was prepping for “Operation Christmas 2012,” I got some unexpected advice. At our daughter’s recent check-up, I mentioned the stress of the holidays to her pediatrician. Without missing a beat, he just said, “Lower your expectations and you’ll lower your stress.” He went on to tell me about how he and his wife have taken a very relaxed approach to the holidays.

Suddenly my ideas of schedules and planning seemed silly. How was I supposed to keep my baby on a routine, when there is nothing routine about holidays? You just do your best, is what our pediatrician prescribed. It’s not going to be the end of the world if she goes to sleep an hour later than normal, and you’re probably going to lose more sleep worrying about it than if you had just let her stay up. For a mom who is all about schedules, this was a hard pill to swallow.

But it turns out that the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. The AAP says that sticking to routines is important, but they acknowledge that holidays can be hard. Their advice is to bend a little, but make sure to get everyone back on track at least two days before school, work and daily life take over. I can handle that. Maybe I should lower my expectations just a little. Whew, I’m feeling better already.
Below are a few travel tips from the AAP for surviving the season.

• If a long road trip is in your holiday plans, try to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
• Children often become restless or irritable when on a long trip. Keep them occupied by pointing out interesting sights along the way and by bringing soft, lightweight toys    and favorite music for a sing-along.
• All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
• If you’re traveling by plane, remember to allow your family extra time to get through security – especially when traveling with younger children.
• In order to decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum or drinking liquids with a straw.
• Strollers can be brought through airport security and gate-checked to make travel with small children easier.

The holidays really shouldn’t be so stressful. We should all be enjoying our families, savoring our time together and building traditions that become wonderful memories for our children. Those are sure to be better than any presents we can give them.

Categories: Holidays, Little Ones