Parenting Column: Five tips for successful holiday and travel planning with young children

By Cindy Hartwig  
Parenting Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider  

In a perfect world, the holiday season will bring about peace, goodwill, and magical memories for all. As well-meaning parents, we may have exceedingly high expectations for holidays and vacations, which are not always realistic with young children, or for that matter, human beings!

One spouse’s ideal trip may involve packing in as many visits as possible, while another may wish to relax at home. Children might forget their manners when visiting older relatives who may have unreasonable expectations for young children. With inconsistent rules, disrupted routines, and an abundance of sugary treats, it comes as no surprise that our little ones may experience behavioral back-sliding, creating challenges for the whole family. These five tips will not
ensure a perfect holiday season, but will minimize stress and provide opportunities for family togetherness despite unforeseen circumstances.

  1. Communicate: It is normal to have ideal expectations, so be sure to discuss them ahead of time. While it is beneficial to review etiquette prior to visiting friends’ or relatives’ houses, it is also helpful to have a conversation with the hosts concerning their expectations, especially with regard to children.  Children will have a better chance of success if they understand the rules ahead of time.
  2. Remember the Reason for the Season: Regardless of which holidays or traditions your family celebrates, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Keep priorities in check by remembering why you celebrate.
  3. Have a Flexible Calendar: Recognizing that holidays can be observed on alternate dates takes the disappointment out of co-parenting with shared visitation schedules. Likewise, it reduces burnout experienced from attempting to eat two holiday dinners with both sets of grandparents on the same day.
  4. Plan for Surprises: Life is full of twists and turns that can throw us into a tailspin when we are tired and busy. With an active family, the chances are good that someone might catch a cold, the dog may escape, or the turkey might fall on the floor. Remember, many circumstances are outside of our control, but we are in charge of how we respond.
  5. Enforce Healthy Habits: It is realistic to expect that children may stay up past their bedtime and indulge in treats, but be sure to establish healthy limits.  Stimulants, such as chocolate and sugary items can cause little ones to become overly active, which makes self-regulation challenging. Ensuring that they get a reasonable amount of sleep will minimize the risk of emotional meltdowns.

Remember, 18 years of holiday celebrations go by quickly. Our little ones grow up so fast! The patterns for behavior are set in the early childhood years and guess who they are watching to model their actions? I’m so glad that when an innocent pillow fight concluded with a broken nose (mine) and our mountain cabin trip resulted in a power outage (dinner by campfire anyone?) we chose to laugh until we cried. In retrospect, some of the best holiday disasters were
also some of our favorite family memories.

Columnist Cindy Hartwig is pictured at her home in Canyon Lake. Photo provided by Cindy Hartwig.

Cindy Hartwig is a parenting coach and consultant specializing in start-ups, growth, and expansion for churches and schools. She works with children, parents, educators, administrators, board members, accreditation teams, and pastors to strategize and implement best practices in education. Hartwig resides in Canyon Lake and is co-founder of 1 Focus Counseling.


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