Celebrations give spice to life. It can be especially delicious when our children are with us, enjoying them, as well — until it gets too stimulating or loud or late.
Some social events are so adult-oriented that children just don’t fit in. Parents who attend these events need to entertain their children and may need to leave before they are ready. Manufacturing a party to meet every little one’s needs, though, can become boring and leave out the adults.
A balance of routines, play and relaxation are essential.
If you are hosting, create space so that both adults and kids can have their own space. Set aside an area with kid snacks, games, art materials, books, and pillows. Putting on a short video can be fun, but there is no need to overdo screen time. If the children are old enough to be left on their own for a short time, ask parents to check on the kids every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Don’t feel you have to entertain them constantly. When children learn to self-manage in new situations, it can give them confidence and resiliency.
Including playtime in the party will not only delight the children, but adults also will love it. Remember that kids don’t usually sit still for long. Pull out Twister or play Simon Says. Playing Charades with kids and adults teaming up is a ton of fun — write note cards with movies and books that are familiar to young and old alike and that anyone can act out or guess. Or create a simple scavenger hunt for everyone and hand out lists and shopping bags when a structured activity is needed.
Sometimes letting your kids stay up late is OK for special events. If they are too young for late-night activities such as ringing in the new year, bring the PJs and a favorite stuffed animal or book. Ask your host for a comfy chair or corner of the floor to lay your child down. A small space will do — many people remember being put to sleep on a bed full of coats. Even if the event is at your home, be sure to explain about bedtime to your child beforehand so that they will transition to bed more easily.
Guests in the house, travel and other changes in routine can contribute to our stress, and kids experience it, too. Add in distracted adults, busy with social events, and winter weather keeping children with lots of energy inside, and trouble can follow.
Kids do best when they keep to routines, get the attention they need and are occupied. Involve them in crafts, cooking and planning for any events you are hosting or are scheduled to attend.
The winter season can be especially magical for many — there are more than a dozen religious holidays celebrated in the United States in the winter months. If your friends or family members have religious or ethnic festivities differing from yours, invite your children’s questions and curiosity. Enjoy these opportunities to talk about the diversity of our communities.
Be especially aware that we don’t need to force kids or ourselves to be happy or excited all the time. Pay attention for signs of stress, such as crankiness, arguing, pulling away or being clingy. Respond with some “down time” and cuddles. And remember to enjoy the special times with family and friends.
Maren Peterson-DeGroff is the Rural Outreach Coordinator for Healthy Families Lane County at Parenting Now! She has 30 years of experience working with children and families and has two adult children. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit offering groups and workshops so that all children are raised by nurturing, skilled parents. Contact Parenting Now! at www.parentingnow.org, on social media and at 541-484-5316.