The Christmas season brings lots of fun activities and days spent with family and friends creating memories to last a lifetime. However, if you have young children who thrive on their routine, you may be worried about how the diversion from their daily schedule will affect them. Most children thrive on routine. In a world where everything is so new and often confusing it’s very reassuring for a child to know what will happen next. In their normal day-to-day life, they may appreciate the predictability of routines – like bathtime is always after dinner, then we read a book before bed. But when Christmas activities mean you’re out of the house all day, will your child be unsettled by the change?
Ask yourself how important the routine is for your child
Maybe your child isn’t so rigid in their routine, maybe you often deviate from the usual routine and your child is pretty flexible. Or maybe your child is a lover of routine, especially on days when there’s extra stimulation like seeing people and going to new places. Follow their lead, you’ll know when you can deviate away from routine and when they may have an appetite for changing things up.
Don’t be afraid to enforce your child’s routine
Whether your child’s routine is flexible or not, you may get comments from others. Especially if you’re going home early or declining an invitation in order to stick to the routine. However, have confidence in your decision. You know your child best and what they can tolerate. Remember, the people that criticise your “strict” routine won’t be there at 4am when your baby is awake because they missed their usual bedtime. Do what works for your family.
Top tip: people may say “put them to bed late tonight, they’ll wake up later in the morning, giving you a lie-in” however, this is not true. Sleep experts say children who go to bed late and therefore overtired have a less restful sleep and will usually wake up earlier than usual.
Utilise quiet time
Big family gatherings can bring sensory overload for many of us. Your small child’s tolerance for this excessive stimulation may be very short, so being proactive can help to avoid tantrums. Quiet time can be as simple as bringing your child for a walk in the garden or bringing them to a less crowded room for a cuddle. This will give them time to recharge their social batteries and remind them that you’re there for them whenever they need you.
Your child’s brain is receiving lots of new information and they need sleep to process everything. Pay close attention to their sleep cues, like rubbing their eyes. Act quickly before overtiredness sets in. If your child struggles to fall asleep in a busy environment, put them in their buggy and go for a walk, or strap them into their car seat for a drive. The sleep will give your baby a new lease on life.
Use a baby carrier for smaller babies
If your baby is very young, you may be feeling extra anxious about being around lots of people at Christmas and how your baby will react. It can be especially challenging to maintain their usual schedule as they are only awake 45 minutes to 2 hours at a time and feeding on demand. This is where babywearing can be a great helper. It allows your baby to have the restful sleep they need while feeling safe with you. It’s also great for parents who want to avoid their baby being passed around all day!
Take the pressure off mealtimes
It can be difficult to get your children to eat a full meal at the best of times, so add in the chaos of Christmas Day with family and they might refuse to eat anything other than the huge selection of chocolates and sweets hanging around, leaving you feeling stressed. Offer a big healthy breakfast at home so you can feel reassured that they have eaten something nutritious. You could also pack something that you know they will eat, in case they turn their nose up at the turkey and stuffing. Try not to stress if all they eat at Christmas dinner is the dessert. It’s just one day. Enjoy yourself and focus on making happy memories as a family!