I don’t know about your house, but the intensity in mine ramps up the minute we hit December. Dinner table discussions turn to letters to Santa, our schedule of holiday parties and discussion of the cookies we’ll be baking. My children’s excitement is contagious and I look forward to the holiday memories we are creating. However, I try to be realistic, since I know from experience that this time of year brings its fair share of stress. There is nothing fun about over-scheduled, exhausted children (and parents) with belly aches after too many treats. This year, in an attempt to keep us a little more balanced, I have created a few guidelines for our family to get us through December with good spirits and healthy bodies.
- I am resisting the urge to pack every free moment with some sort of holiday celebration. We already have a few overbooked weekend days on the calendar and I’ve decided that we need to be choosy and attend one or two events per week. In the past I’ve tried to do it all and carting around cranky, overstimulated kids isn’t fun for any of us.
- Sleep is a priority. This time of year, my children’s bedtime creeps later and later (along with my own!) in order to pack in all the fun. This year, I am going to stick to an early bedtime for all of us as much as possible, allowing for exceptions during those special events. This way, they won’t get run down and will have energy to enjoy.
- Pack in some healthy food. I love holiday sweets and treats as much as my kids do, so this applies for kids and grownups alike. I am going to make sure that I plan some healthy weekday meals to balance out all of the extra goodies. In addition, I have also stocked up on plenty of healthy snacks. Hopefully, with enough healthy options within easy reach, we will all remember to enjoy the special treats in moderation.
- Exercise. If there’s snow, we’ll all be out making snowmen and having a family snowball fight as well as trying to make time to take short hikes in the woods near our house. Or if it’s cold and miserable, I’ll be blasting the holiday music and starting a family dance party. Maybe we’ll have a hula hooping contest inside. Anything to get all of us moving to stay healthy and also to burn off some of those extra calories.
- Make time for quiet. Sometimes in the chaos, I forget how special it can be to sit quietly in front of the tree or the solstice candle with my kids and enjoy some quiet time together. With three small children, these moments are fleeting but often some of the most special of the year.
Whatever your holiday traditions, I’m hoping that sharing our family’s guidelines will help inspire you to create some of your own to keep your family in good spirits during this festive and sometimes stressful time.
What do you do to keep the holidays fun and healthy for your family? Feel free to share your tips in the comments below.
Kristin Fontaine is a pediatric outreach lead at the UVM Medical Center’s office of Community Health Improvement.