I have no doubt that there are children out there who sail through the holiday time with great equanimity, smoothly transitioning through the sugar overload and piles of presents with smiles, graciousness, and charm. I’m sure their clothes are all pristine green and red, and never accented with schmears of chocolate chips consumed as if life as we know it depends upon getting another chip in the mouth as quickly and as messily as possible. I’m sure if those children have an Elf of the Shelf, they don’t hunt it down each morning with a mania that borders on stalker-ish behavior.

However, those children do not live at the EHP homestead. Not. At. All.

So we have developed a few coping strategies to deal with the reality of the EHP children as they are, in all their holiday glory. Perhaps these will help you out too on a difficult day:

1. Open Early: I am a full convert to the idea of opening Christmas presents that arrive by mail from relatives and friends early. This is not to say they should be opened immediately, but the giant pile of presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? It’s overwhelming, and frankly, unrealistic. It also distracts from the meaning of the day, which, depending on your point of view, should be about family, tradition, faith, and friends, or some combination thereof.

2. Wish List It: the Amazon.com wishlist function has saved the day more times than I can count. When the “need” for something becomes overwhelming, we put it on the EHP kiddos’ Amazon wish lists. It’s visual, it’s concrete, and it’s affirming. Make sure that on birthdays and at Christmas that someone actually BUYS off the wish list. I can’t stress enough how key this is. Your child has to know that the Wish List works, that delaying gratification does ultimately result in gratification at some point.

3. Reinvent It: I’ve taken to making enormous piles out of the EHP kids’ toys around this time of year. No neat storage, no toys put in their place. Nope. I dump it in the center of the room, and make a big mess out of playing with it. Why? Because it reminds them – both visually and tangibly – of how much they already have. It feels “full” to them. They don’t see it as messy, they see it as exciting. And this helps them cope – really well, actually – with the constant pressure and expectation of “getting” during the Holiday Season, because they realize that they have already “gotten”.

As we all work to teach our kids the right meaning of the season and the holidays, I hope these tips will help you manage those difficult emotions too! And, remember, on really bad days, there is nothing wrong with feeding your child a big bowl of chocolate chips and letting them go to town on it. Christmas really does only come once a year.

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I haven’t been able to post for awhile here at EHP, but that doesn’t mean the posts haven’t been writing themselves in my head. They always do! I just don’t always get a moment to jot them down. But as we are on a plane for Thanksgiving travel and both EHP kids are asleep, I am seizing the moment where I can to write my top ten holiday realities for busy parents:
green christmas balls 300x200 Top 10 Holiday Tips for Busy Parents

1. Seize the Moment Where You Can: icon smile Top 10 Holiday Tips for Busy Parents You knew this one was coming! Seriously, don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The cakes, the cookies, the decorations don’t need to be perfect to be meaningful. Kids like all things Christmas and Holiday, and they have short attention spans. 15 minutes of holiday fun with red/green colors, sprinkles, chalk or other short projects like decorating, making an ornament, or singing a Christmas song go a long way with kids to helping them sense of the magic of the holidays. Take those moments where they present themselves!

2. Dollar Aisle All the Way: Need gifts for all the kids in your child’s class? Small items for the neighbors? Some charity items to wrap up and demonstrate the meaning of Christmas? The dollar aisles at favorite stores like Walmart, Target, or the Dollar Store itself are a fabulous way to let your child take part in the decision-making, the spirit of giving, and the idea of matching up a person with a present without breaking your bank. Shop early while all the good stuff is still out there (my apologies to local EHP readers for the fact that the EHP kid and I just bought up 35 of the felt ornaments at our Target).

3. Light it Up: Kids love lights, period. You can buy them super cheap at the Dollar Store. They may not last forever, but they will go a few years for you for very few bucks. Lights go a loooong way with kids. Forget expensive or complex or breakable decorations: light it up instead.

4. Teach Patience: Advent calendars, Elf on a Shelf, all of these tools not only help as conversation pieces about Christmas and the Holidays, but they serve as an excellent way to teach children patience, anticipation, calendar dates, and time.
rainbow christmas 221x300 Top 10 Holiday Tips for Busy Parents
5. Schedule Extra Time for Helpers: It takes a lot more time to bake cookies when your “assistant” is measuring out the flour and sugar. Consider cutting back your ambitions for production, and go for quality time instead. It makes a big difference to them, and in the end, no one actually need alllll those cookies!

6. Let Each Kid Have a Holiday “Thing”: One of the EHP kids loves nutcrackers. He thinks they are amazing. Thus, we have started buying one small, inexpensive nutcracker each year. He sees those nutcrackers as his part of decorating the house for Christmas, and it makes the whole experience much more special for him.

7. Read About It: Christmas books are everywhere, and make nice presents for others as well. Pull your Christmas books to a pile by the bed and make a point of reading one or two each night. Explaining the holidays in other ways, words that don’t come from just Mom or Dad, is a great way to help children process the experience and capture the magic.

8. Do It, Don’t Eat It: One of the hardest parts of the holidays is how much they are centered around food. It can be easy to let cookies, chocolate Santas, and other types of food become the focus of the Season. Try to redirect if you can. Make the fun centered on shopping for gifts for others, wrapping gifts for others (buy a little extra paper to prepare for the inevitable paper tearing fun), decorating, investigating, reading, and looking (like at the lights in your neighborhood on a drive once or twice a week).

9. Prepare for the Let Down: January is a drag after the excitement and drama of Christmas. Budget, plan, or otherwise prepare for some transition back to the normal routine. This may mean you plan your garden seeds for the spring, or organize all the new and old toys together, deciding which ones can be given away. Jot down ideas and plans now, and put some of your Christmas budget aside for these activities. You will be really, really, really, really glad you did later on!XmasTreeWithStar Top 10 Holiday Tips for Busy Parents

10. Embrace the Fun Yourself: However you need to do it, make yourself slow down and enjoy the fun as well. Look at the Holidays as a time to enjoy your family and yourself in a way you don’t usually have time to do. Everyone says that your kids are only little once, you’ll blink and it’s over,etc. I say: you are only a parent of young people once. You have a lifetime to be serious and focused. Part of the fun of having kids is to dip back into the magic of your childhood some more. Allow yourself the time and space to do so.

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