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Kids' Routines Shouldn't Take a Holiday

The holiday season is when childhood memories are made: Parties! Presents! Sugary treats!

But the season also brings a break in a child’s routine, which means it creates some pretty profound memories for parents, too: Tantrums! Stomach aches! Crushing fatigue!

Making the season magical while still manageable is a balancing act; but I tell my patients that with careful planning, it’s possible for kids and parents to come away with pleasant holiday memories.

Nestled all Snug in Their Beds

Traveling to different time zones or attending evening parties, makes it difficult to get your kids down at the same time every night. But children, particularly young children, need a solid sleep routine for their health and well-being.

Try to get your children to bed within one to two hours of their normal bed times. If that means letting your child fall asleep in your lap or in a spare bedroom of a host’s house before transferring him into the car to go home a little later, that’s fine (if it’s fine with the host). But if your child is not the type to fall asleep anywhere, you might want to time your visits and your activities with bed time in mind.

Bowlful of Jelly

Let’s be honest: When grandparents are around, your kids’ sugar intake is simply going to increase. My advice to parents during this time of year is to make sure your children get a healthy breakfast. That will at least give them a good foundation for the rest of the day.

Sometimes, with all the running around we do, regular meals are missed. Keep healthy snacks, such as whole fruit, with you to fend off low blood sugar – and the meltdowns that come with it.

You can also use the preponderance of sweets as a teachable moment. When facing a buffet table piled with tempting foods, offer them choices between healthy options and talk to them about what they think the most nourishing choices would be.

Prancing and Pawing of Each Little Hoof

The kids are home from school – and they’re bored. While it might be tempting to stick them in front of a screen so that you can get stuff done around the house, keep in mind that little bodies need exercise and little brains need stimulating activities.

Try to plan activities during the morning, when they’re more likely to be awake and receptive. Plan a play date at the park. Play soccer or do yoga with them. Break out a puzzle or a board game. Set out paper and paints and let them get creative.

And don’t let chores slide. If a child fills up the dog bowl every day during the rest of the year, there is no reason she can’t still see her responsibility through during the holidays. The iPad is bound to make more appearances during these few weeks, but limit screen exposure to two hours a day for children over age two.

The demand on our time during the holidays means that our parenting skills sometimes take a back seat. But by making sure that our kids maintain a reasonable semblance of their routine, we can help them stay healthier and happier – ensuring our holiday memories will be more joyful for the whole family.

Meet the Author

Teresa Lee, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Specialty: Pediatrics

Dr. Lee’s focus is on collaborating with and listening to her patients. She believes it is extremely important to gain the input of her patients in order to develop a plan that is best suited for the individual. View Bio [+]