Large family holiday gatherings can be tough for lots of reasons. Over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-excited and under-slept kids are simply going to struggle. But there may also be some relational dynamics that complicate things when you all get together. See if you relate to this pattern:
- You feel anxious around the watchful, possibly critical eye of parents or other relatives.
- You work harder to keep kids in line and are tougher on them than usual.
- Your kids (who are already extra stressed) sense your angst and act up more.
- Gramma or Grampa (or others) intervene to keep youngsters in line, with good intentions but unhelpful strategies.
- You feel embarrassed, undermined, and maybe frustrated or resentful.
- Kids watch the power struggle between the adults and are left feeling more stressed and insecure than ever.
Is the holiday stew smelling rotten yet? If so, this post is for you.
Consider how confusing and frustrating it is for you when you don’t know what to expect in chaotic situations. Then, add “who’s-in-charge confusion” to the sugar, over-stimulation, etc., that is stressing your kids, it’s clear – they need you to deal with as many of those stressors as possible, so you all can enjoy the holiday. For help with those physical stressors, see links below.
Related to the “Who’s in charge” question – You can communicate ahead of time to your parents or other relatives:
- You don’t have to ignore kids’ misbehavior. You have an important role here in a peaceful connected holiday. But especially since we don’t see you everyday, I want my kids to really enjoy their time with you.
- If one of my kids is struggling or misbehaving, all that is needed from you is, “It seems like you’re having a hard time. Do you need a hug, or do you need some help from your mom or dad?“
This communicates to the child, “We notice a problem that needs to be dealt with, and we want to help you through it,” but it supports both your authority as the parent and a connected relationship with grandparents and other relatives.
Clarifying with your parents or other relatives, and empowering them with this specific helpful strategy might be all you need to refresh the joy in your Christmas!
We’ve written lots about holiday gatherings over the years! Read more here:
Christmas…”The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?”
One other thing to consider: Extended families that go through the Discipline that Connects online course build peace and unity, getting on the same page about guiding kids when the family is together.
Want a quick way to share this parenting approach? Download our one hour recording of a Discipline That Connects workshop.