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Parenting Tips for the Holidays

Parenting tips can help ease the stress of the holidays.

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Go to the Nutcracker, a lighting ceremony or just drive around to see house lighting

  • Build a snowman
  • Open an Advent card
  • Go to church or synagogue
  • Let kids' choose holiday music and parents can dance with them
  • Start a tradition of holiday meditation geared to short attention spans
  • Bring out the ornaments, if you have a tree, and reminisce about each one

Some other suggestions:

  • Put the kids in charge of videotaping or picture taking. Let them interview everyone each year. Landscape photographer Franklin B. Way suggests starting with disposable cameras. Encourage several shots of each subject before offering advice. Send kids out to take pictures of objects of one color. It will give you some free time.
  • Be flexible -- if kids want a traditional candy cane and gingerbread man tree, alternate that each year with your designer special covered in fiberglass and festooned with your collection of antique racing car ornaments.
  • Encourage kids to make New Year's resolutions. Share your own hopes for the coming year.

Coping With Divorce

The best time to consciously create new traditions, Newman says, is when the family has been touched by divorce, death, or some major change. "Even if it only means having dinner at a different time, try to differentiate between the past and now."

Marilyn Coleman, PhD, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, suggests divorced parents create a separate holiday just for the family, one that is neither Christmas or Hanukkah, so kids won't feel guilty for spending time with one parent and not the other.

Mary Jo McCurley of the Dallas law firm McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley & Nelson, also suggests parents firm up the visitation schedule in advance, no surprises. Try not to overschedule kids, she advises -- they are already moving around. Help you child shop for your ex-spouse and be positive about the other parent. Don't convey feelings of anxiousness about your being alone on "the big day." Also -- don't compete for the affections of the child by breaking the bank with a "big gift."

Keep Routines as Best You Can

Newman suggests bedtimes be maintained, even if relatives plead, "Let them stay up, it's the holiday." People need sleep, she says, even adult people. "The next day is a holiday, too," Newman says, "no one wants to deal with sleep-deprived kids. You do them a disservice if you allow them to stay up."

Kids also should not be allowed to OD on sugar and snack food. "Ask the grandparents to go easy," smiles Newman.

Most of all, be inclusive -- if kids are included in an event, introduce them, coach them to use proper manners, and if they need you off alone for a few minutes, make the time.

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