MSU family science professor offers tips on navigating holidays with children

A family reads a book and plays games together.
While the holidays can be a busy season, spending quality time together as a family at home should not be overlooked. (Photo by Getty Images)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—While holidays are often portrayed in popular culture as a time of wonder and merriment for children, the excitement and disruption of routine can cause issues for kids and their parents.

Lori Elmore-Staton, a Mississippi State associate professor of human development and family science, said it is important for parents to be mindful of overscheduling as families juggle social and family obligations.

“We tend to schedule way more than we probably should or have time for,” said Elmore-Staton. “Especially with children that get overstimulated easily, crowds can be a lot for them. You really have to pay attention to their behavior to see if something is too much for them, if it’s too late in the day or if they’ve had too much sugar. We also have to recognize that downtime at home is good and can be very beneficial for everyone.”

Other important factors to help children navigate holidays include keeping a similar sleep routine, managing expectations about gifts, and allowing children space and time to warm up to friends and family they may not know or remember. Some suggestions from Elmore-Staton include:

—If traveling, take a child’s blanket or other security item so they have something of their own in an unfamiliar place;

—Explain to children that the season is not all about getting presents and other material things;

—Talk to children about the friends and family they will see before going on a visit and let others know that it may take some time for your child to warm up to them.

Elmore-Staton also encourages parents to take on engaging activities together instead of passive, isolated activities during down time.

“Even if it’s cool outside, it’s still good to go outside and take a walk or go to the park,” she said. “It’s also good to do activities like playing board games, reading books together, cooking, or anything that you and your child can both get some reward from. It’s those small things that children will remember when they grow up.”

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