This is a fraught time of year. We are looking forward to a few days off, but the kids will be home and the relatives are coming!

To help the holiday season go more smoothly this year, make a list of what you and your family really enjoy about the holiday. Is it being with extended family, going to the movies together or making breakfast with the kids while dressed in your jammies? What is on the list of absolute holiday traditions? Must there be turkey with multiple side dishes? Must you use your grandmother’s china that can’t go in the dishwasher? Must the guests arrive at 2 pm when dinner doesn’t happen until 6 pm? Must the children have ten gifts each? If these are not on your list of absolute holiday traditions, consider changing the routine. 

Keep it simple, stick to your list of what is important, and everyone will be happier. Plan ahead – a sensible time for guests to arrive, time for dinner, dessert and clean up. Let each guest contribute something: a dish, help clear the table, pour water, bring a board game that many young guests might enjoy. An energetic aunt or uncle might take the kids outside for kickball! Set up a quiet corner with paper, coloring books and colored pencils or crayons. Adults might enjoy that too. It is better to end with people wishing they could stay longer, rather than waiting until the youngest guests are crying from fatigue or overexcitement. 

If you and your family are the guests, decide in advance how long you are staying. If your kids are “picky” eaters or hate pumpkin pie, bring something they like that can be shared. Keep a bag in the car packed with things to do and small snacks in case of boredom. Sometimes a change of clothing is helpful for a young guest with a tendency to spill things. 

For many children, having a “job” relieves the anxiety about dealing with family gatherings. Get a teenaged relative to read a book, build something with blocks or play a card game with the younger children. A child could be in charge of taking coats, putting out napkins or taking pictures of guests with a smart phone. When you or another family member is tired – time to leave! Better to leave while there is a feeling of having enjoyed the family gathering!

Happy holidays!

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Mary Ann at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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