Giving your child the gift of time

During such a busy time of year, it is easy to lose sight of one of the things our children treasure the most – time spent with us. Infants and toddlers especially need their time with their families.

Children need to have your undivided attention for at least brief periods of time, several times each day, especially during the holidays.  Photo credit: Pixabay.

Children need to have your undivided attention for at least brief periods of time, several times each day, especially during the holidays. Photo credit: Pixabay.

The busy holiday season is upon us and, as parents we have more activities on our calendars than any other time of year.  Celebrating the holidays with children makes them extra special.  When our children were young, we couldn’t wait for our first holiday with them.  We wanted to create treasured childhood memories for our children and relive some of our favorite holiday fun.  So, we spent hours of our time preparing for gatherings with family and friends, making special food, decorating, and shopping.

During this time of year, Michigan State University Extension knows especially how easy it is to lose sight of one of the things our children treasure the most – time spent with us.  Infants and toddlers especially need their time with their families.  They need to have your undivided attention for at least brief periods of time, several times each day.  It is a part of how you show them you care about them and it is part of the consistent care you give to them.

Any time our familiar routines are disrupted, we all can feel overwhelmed.  Young children are especially sensitive to changes and it can affect their eating and sleeping.  We invite more and different people in our homes for parties and celebrations and this can confuse little ones.  If you travel away from home for the holidays, they have even more changes to try to cope with.

It can all be pretty rough on parents and children.  As a result of a hectic holiday, you may see your infant and toddler

  • fuss and cry more
  • cling more
  • have a hard time calming down or sleeping
  • eat less, or have stomach aches

Are we still having fun?

If you want to help your infant or toddler enjoy the holidays as much as you do, keep in mind that they will continue to need to have the same attention from you that you usually provide.  In fact, they may need more attention.  Here are some suggestions that might keep you and your child happier through the holidays.

  • Try to schedule your shopping, decorating or cooking projects into short blocks of time rather than ‘marathon’ sessions of several hours.  Or take frequent breaks in the middle of long projects. 
  • Use this time to give your child your undivided attention.  Talk or share a book in a relaxed manner.  Join your child in a simple game or sing songs like Pat-a-cake.
  • Find activities that your child can really enjoy such as a physical activity like running, jumping or climbing.  Outdoor activities are great stress-busters for parents and children.  A brief silly dance to holiday songs can lighten the mood for everyone.
  • If you like to include your children in your special projects, make sure that you have plenty of time to take it at your child’s pace.  And, remind yourself that it is the process of spending time together that matters more than the results.  Your gingerbread men may never look the same.

These face-to-face quality times with your child are moments to treasure.  They build on your positive relationship with your child and help your child develop a strong sense of self.  They help your child feel secure and valued.  As your child grows older, these good feelings will help your child to trust themselves and get along with others.  They will help your child feel positive about the world and take on new challenges.

So maybe, in distant future, your child will be the one who will do the cooking, shopping and decorating for holidays.  That sounds like a deal!