A Calm Thanksgiving With KidsNov 15, 2023
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Thanksgiving is about a week away here in the U.S. This is a day that can be challenging for kids and adults alike, so today’s episode will help you to prepare yourself and your family to have a calm Thanksgiving with kids.
Think back to the past few Thanksgivings. How did they go? Were there some things you’d like to change (or was it just a complete shit-show)?
Whether you’re hoping for small or large changes this Thanksgiving, I’ve got four strategies to help you prepare yourself, feel connected to your kids and enjoy the holiday more.
Why Thanksgiving is Challenging for Kids
There are a few things I see come up often (and that I experienced myself with my two boys and ten nieces and nephews).
First, kids seem to get into a lot of mischief during Thanksgiving. There’s a lot going on and, especially if you’re at someone else’s house, they might feel confused about their boundaries. They get into stuff they shouldn’t and go into spaces where you don’t want them to go.
Plus, they’re bored. Thanksgiving is a long day, and all the adults are focused on other things. Kids are often left to their own devices, but they also probably don’t have access to all their favorite toys and activities.
When it comes to mealtime, parents often feel embarrassed by their kids’ table manners. This is something that takes kids a long time to learn. Even just fork food versus finger food is a confusing concept to kids. Sometimes, they act out at the table, don’t want to eat the food or can’t seem to sit still. They may not want to participate in all the traditions, which can feel chaotic, disappointing or embarrassing as a parent.
Ultimately, for kids, Thanksgiving is just a bit overwhelming. They might look to you to see if everything is okay. But if they sense that you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it might make them feel more anxious, too.
Strategies for a Calm Thanksgiving with Kids
As moms, holidays can come with a lot of pressure. We want ourselves and our kids to be seen in a certain way and are afraid of being judged. But if this overwhelm builds up you might be the one who has a meltdown and has to leave the table (that’s not what we want!).
Have A Plan
Through your Thanksgiving celebrations, you're exposing your kid to some traditions, values and cultural experiences that you care about. You don’t need them to buy in and participate in every aspect (this idea alone can relieve a ton of pressure).
What your child really needs from you throughout the day is connection and co-regulation. Having a plan in mind to do this makes things feel less chaotic.
Spend some time thinking through the day itself (almost like how a teacher would map out a school day). What will the day be like? What time are you leaving? If you’re hosting, what will your kid’s morning look like? Which parent or adult will help move the kids in and out of activities? Who will co-regulate with them when they need it? If you’re the host, you’ll probably need to ask for some help here.
Think about which parts of the day might be difficult for your child and decide on 2-3 times you will intentionally connect with them. While you might not want to do this because you’d rather be talking with the other adults, connecting with your kid throughout the day often means that you actually get more uninterrupted time in between.
A little bit of focused time with you early in the day will go a long way, and a little connection can buy you a lot of compliance. Connect again in the middle of the day for some kind of structured activity. Then, do some big body movement to get the wiggles out before the meal. Jump on a trampoline, go for a walk or do a dance party.
Know what you’ll do if your kid has a meltdown. Instead of pressuring your child to participate or act a certain way, take a pause break together. Go co-regulate with them and spend some time reconnecting. Let them feel safe with you, and then offer a solution and a plan.
Preset Your Nervous System
Spend some time preparing your nervous system in order to calm your stress response. You can actually train your system so that you don’t stay in a stressed state as long. And it’s kinda fun! It looks like taking time to go for a walk, listen to music, sit and drink your coffee…doing small things that delight you.
Ask yourself, “How can I take excellent care of myself this week?” The goal is to proactively get that stress juice out so that you can lower your set point.
Imagine Future You
Think about yourself 10 Thanksgivings from now.
You’re not gonna say, “I wish I had spent less time with my kids. I wish we had done fewer things as a family. I wish I had been more stressed about my turkey and how the table looked. I wish I would’ve yelled at my kids more.”
You’re probably going to say things like, “I wish I had been more present. I wish I laughed more. I wish I savored and enjoyed my time as a mom. I can't believe how fast it went.”
I want you to choose right now how you want to reflect back on this time and how you want to show up.
This perspective will help you get out of thinking that things need to be perfect in order to be good.
Problems are coming. Meltdowns and chaos are coming. And when it happens, I want you to think about how future you might think of this moment. Will it make a great story someday? Find the lightness, laughter and joy in it. Because it’s only one day.
Chase the Feeling
Before any event, I always ask myself how I want to feel while I’m in that experience. What feeling am I chasing? For me, it’s usually joy. But sometimes it’s ease, safety, empowerment or contentment.
Whatever feeling you’re chasing is just right. Name it. Because the truth is you cannot get something unless you know what you want.
Then, decide what you need to be thinking in order to feel that feeling. If you want to feel joy, you might think things like, “I enjoy being with my family. I like this meal. This is fun.”
Write out 5 thoughts that you want to think during Thanksgiving. I recommend writing them in the notes app on your phone or in Google Keep, screenshot it and make it your wallpaper so you can look at it whenever you're looking at your phone.
If you need some ideas, here are a few of my favorite thoughts:
- I choose peace and harmony over stress and perfection.
- I always have permission to pause.
- This is temporary.
- Kids misbehave, and that’s normal.
This last one is especially helpful if you come from a dysfunctional family where your emotions were not allowed or validated - I am a cycle breaking parent, and that is hard but important. I can do it. I will not dump my feelings on my kids. I am an amazing mom right now exactly as I am.
This week, I hope you’ll take some time to think through your Thanksgiving day, figure out when you're going to support your kids, preset your nervous system, imagine future you, and then chase the feelings that you want.
- Why kids misbehave on holidays
- Strategies to prepare for a calm Thanksgiving with kids
- Ways to connect with your child throughout the day
- What to do if your kid has a meltdown during Thanksgiving dinner
- 5 of my favorite thoughts for you to borrow
Create easier, more fun & less stressful holidays!
Get the free Calm For The Holidays Guide to prepare your nervous system, your expectations & your calendar and prioritize CALM this holiday season.