Albeit a time of giving and joy, holidays can also often be riddled with meltdowns and poor sleep (for parents and children alike!). Here are some tips to help you maintain your sleep (and sanity) this Christmas:
1) Make a connection plan: At the core of most sleep difficulties is feelings of fear (otherwise disguised as insecurity, apprehension, or uncertainty). These emotions are often heightened for children around the holiday season when we tend to be out of routine, and increasingly stressed and busy… not to mention that strange, loud, larger-than-life man in the red suit! Connecting with our children through play, setting firm (yet loving) limits, and listening to feelings regularly, encourage safety and strengthens the parent-child connection. Inevitably, this helps to minimize off-track behavior, reduce bedtime resistance, and improve sleep ability. Some ideas for incorporating connection into your daily routine here.
2) Let your child decide on the nature of their interaction with others: You are your child’s best advocate when it comes to their physical and emotional autonomy and safety…and they may need your help protecting their boundaries at this time of year. Try not to “force” affection or manners to appease family members and friends at the expense of your child’s safety or comfort. Children learn through modeling, not coercion. a great article on that here.
3) Keep to your routine as much as possible: including meal times, nap times, and bedtime. Of course, it is common to have a lax in routine during the holidays, but the more mindful you are of keeping as much as possible to your regular schedule, the less likely you will experience sleep difficulties as the new year rolls in.
4) If you are traveling away from home: take all your creature comforts and do your best to replicate your child’s regular sleep environment and sleep associations as much as possible. This includes comforter/toys, white noise, blankets, pillow, sleeping bag/swaddle, and gro anywhere blind (or aluminum foil) to darken the room for naps. If your child sleeps in a cot at home, then a portacot/pack ‘n’ play is a great travel companion. If traveling by car to your destination (longer trips), try to leave home at your child’s nap or bedtime. If you are flying, then see tips here.
5) Wait until the new year to start any major transitions: It is challenging enough just to stick to routine over the Christmas holidays! Where possible, avoid starting the transition into a “big kid” bed, potty training, or changing your child’s sleeping environment until you can commit to being at home for 1-2 weeks.
6) Be vigilant with diet: Try to avoid excess sugar, caffeine (in chocolate and cola), processed foods, and additives/preservatives, as these can severely impact sleep and behavior; not to mention exacerbating allergies. Keep regular meal times and ensure plenty of water and snacks to keep hydration and blood sugar levels stable.
7) Counteract overstimulation with quiet/wind downtime: Loud music, new places and faces, screen time, presents, and a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful things to eat; it’s no wonder our little ones can become very overstimulated and have difficulty falling (and remaining) asleep. Be sure to include some quiet time during the day amongst the chaos. Ideas may include building blocks, a puzzle, coloring-in, or reading a book. Also, you may try increasing wind downtime before naps (15-30 mins), and bedtime (30-60 mins), so your little one has the chance to unwind from all the excitement.
Wishing you and your families a very safe and happy Christmas break
If you find that you are experiencing difficulty with keeping to a routine, or need some assistance getting back on track after the festivities; feel free to contact me to see how I can help you and your family: firstname.lastname@example.org