Holiday family time

Ahh, the joys of the holidays, we get to travel far distances and celebrate with people we may or may not like very much, all in the name of family togetherness.  Luckily for me, I adore pretty much everyone in my family, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.  And even though I love my family, the stresses of traveling with a baby are not something I’m looking forward to.

I’ve heard from my clients that the holidays are often more stressful than fun and tend to disrupt children’s routines and rhythms, making it difficult to get back into the groove once they return home.  I’m not sure what there is to do about that except to try your best to stick to the routine as much as possible even when you’re in a different time zone.

I do, however, have some great tips for how to handle potential conflicts that may arise after everyone has a few drinks under their belts, and how to deal with the “suggestions” you’ll inevitably encounter as your family members observe your parenting style.

For starters, get clear about why you’re doing the things you’re doing BEFORE aunt Margie tells you about how when she was raising her kids she swatted them with switches and they never “back talked” again.  Here are some ways to maintain your own parenting style and share it with your family compassionately.

1) Bring Backup

Personally, I like to be armed with the latest child development research and maybe a recent article from Mothering magazine about the topic at hand.  My style is to teach my family why we do the things we do.  I’m not trying to convince them I’m right necessarily (although that can be a nice side benefit); I’m just letting them know that I’ve done the research and chosen based on the science and my own conscience, not just because I want to try the next new parenting technique.

2) Stand your ground

Some family members will think you’re doing things wrong and they’ll make suggestions about how you could improve your discipline style or get your kid to eat his green beans without protesting.  Take these suggestions in stride, but don’t waiver in your convictions about how you want to parent your child.  If they make a really good point you might say something like, “Wow, you make a really good point there.  When we get home I’ll do some research on that and consider making a change, but for now, this is the way we’re doing things.  Thanks for your input.”  And if they make a suggestion that makes your toes curl and the hair on the back of your neck stand up, you can simply say, “Thanks, but we’ve got it handled.”

3) Model for others

As I mentioned, I like to teach, and what better way to teach my family about my parenting style, but to show them!  Instead of correcting my uncle when he tells my daughter she’s such a “good girl”, I simply step in and offer some effort based praise like, “Wow honey, you’re really working hard on that” or I might offer a new way to speak about my quiet, calm baby by describing her as an “easy baby” rather than a “good” one.  These are subtle changes, but powerful ones and I trust that simply by being exposed to new ways of talking to and about kids, my family members will naturally gravitate toward the things that work well.

I sure hope these suggestions are helpful for you as you enter the Thanksgiving holiday, and don’t forget to refer back to them later in the holiday season too!   Please share your experiences with us in the comment box below.

And have a wonderful week filled with joyful family connections.

Warm hugs, Shelly

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