Celebrating holidays with family and friends often involves travel. You might be headed to grandma’s condo or to your brother’s house to commune with his twin four-year-olds and their incontinent poodle. What could possibly go wrong? Involving your kids in the holiday process, from planning to partying, can go a long way to gaining their cooperation and lessening the stress. Here are some suggestions to keep the fun (and peace):
Teach your kids to pack
Your children may actually like learning this life skill once they get over realizing that you won’t be doing it for them. Hand your kids a list of what they need for the weather (thermal underwear or shorts) and for activities (nice holiday dinner and swimming). Remind kids to take underwear, tops that match pants, appropriate shoes, and pajamas. Have your kids lay-out their choices for your final review before folding the items into a suitcase. Kids tend to feel good about having control over clothing and “cracking” the packing code.
Pick a family project
Honor the spirit of the holidays by helping the destination community. Suggest your grade-schoolers and teens contact the area’s Chamber of Commerce to discover the local community’s needs. Send clothing or toys ahead of time or have your children pool their allowance to purchase a holiday meal for a family in need.
Tell kids about the family history
Whether driving or flying to your destination, use the time en route to provide details about relatives – especially the ones your kids may see only a few times per year. Your youngsters may only know octogenarian Uncle Fred as that cheek-pincher with a bad case of gas. Let them hear how he helped save his platoon in the Vietnam War.
Harness tweens and teens digital expertise
Ask these Web wizards and YouTube masters to chronicle the family holiday by taking photos, shooting videos, and editing them into a family movie. Be sure these budding directors interview grandparents, great-aunts, and any senior family members. Years from now, this family feature will become a treasured memento. Get little ones into the act by having them ask questions. Try “How did you celebrate the holidays as a kid?” Before any posts, be sure to exercise your right of the final edit just to make sure the finished product fits with your family’s values.
Involve young kids
Pre-schoolers like to feel useful too. Ask these crafters to create homemade cards to distribute or help with baking cookies.
Do a safety check
With toddlers in tow, make sure that grandma’s guest room and the rest of the house are kid-safe. Consider bringing electrical outlet covers, baby gates to block stairs plus night lights for bedrooms and bathrooms, and any other items the host family may not have.
Do a sanity check
Has your mother-in-law suddenly gone caffeine-free but you crave that morning buzz? Tote your own coffee and even coffeemaker, if possible. Can’t sleep when your thrifty brother turns the temperature down to 55 °F at night? Pack flannel pajamas and, if driving to your destination, bring your own space heater. About the pooping poodle: Bring a big box of doggy diapers for the aged pet and, perhaps, a favorite wine for you.
Remember to be realistic and thankful
Try to overlook the long trek as well as your family’s foibles. If in the past, a seat at the table came with repeated stories, dry turkey and too many personal questions, then be realistic: this season is likely to be much the same. Tell your children what may happen and work with them to find a creative solution. It may just mean listening quietly. Focus on the good stuff. That goes a long way toward making the holidays fun for you and your family.