The holiday season is now upon us in Toddlerland as we prepare for the celebrations ahead. I love the musical sounds of the season, holiday lights illuminating houses and avenues, and a festive holiday spirit in the air. Bakeries are filling with delicious smells and special treats. It is a glowing time of year.
In this second of my three-part series on holidays with toddlers I want to help you have a delightful season with your young child, one that builds lasting memories without overwhelming your child or you. Keep in mind throughout the month ahead that the holidays are most often best enjoyed when we focus on connecting to people we love and sharing special moments. It is easy to be swept away by the media and consumer pitches to buy more, do more and go, go, go. But by staying present, you and your toddler may enjoy this holiday season better than in years past.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Play down the anticipation. Nothing is harder on a toddler than having to wait.
Toddlers don’t wait easily, if at all. That is because they have no sense of time. Zero. Even 5-year-olds are not so good at waiting. Young children live in the moment, the here and now. What does that mean when it comes to the holidays? Avoid over-hyping the holidays, especially the gifts to come and the out-of-town guests yet to arrive. Try to minimize the anticipation, even of dear old Santa Claus. When you build up the events to come when they’re still days or weeks away, your child will likely end up in tears or pitch a fit when it doesn’t happen by tomorrow morning. Instead, take it slow and talk about events to come closer to the date. Especially with gifts, out-of-sight is truly out of mind.
Take a less is more approach with gifts. This has worked with my children for years. Far fewer gifts and less talking them up beforehand will guarantee pleasure and save you money as well. Toddlers act as if they want everything, but my years of experience have taught me that they don’t really want it ALL. Because toddlers live in the moment, they will tell you exactly what they are imagining and desiring in the moment. But later, it changes. Today your toddler may exclaim, “I want a big blue ball!” The next day it is, “I love teddy bears.” A day later it’s, “I want a Lego set.” And on and on and on. My advice: share in your child’s momentary excitement, but don’t feel compelled to fulfill all of her desires (there will be too many!), and also too many gifts can create a sense of overwhelm. I assure you that your child will be thrilled with a couple of well thought out toys and being cozy in his pajamas as he plays with them.
Finally, avoid asking your child to “be good” to receive gifts. This kind of conditional language sets them up for failure and shame. Instead, assure your child he or she is loved and deserving no matter what, and will have presents (when the time comes).
Slow down and savor the moments. Remember, waiting is not easy so spend the next few weeks instead, enjoying the little moments as they unfold, one after the other. The more present you are with your toddler, the merrier your child will be.