The holiday season has officially arrived! That means long visits with friends and family, loads of loud parties and events, tons of sugary goodies, lots of late nights and…. very tired kiddos!
Even with the best of intentions, we parents often get so caught up in holiday festivities that we take our little ones’ sleep for granted. Particularly at this very busy time of year, with loads of extra stimulation and excitement, it is so important that we honour our children’s sleep.
Here are some of the biggest holiday sleep issues we face, and how best to avoid them!
- Sleeping in unfamiliar places– Your child sees her room at home as a familiar, safe space. During the holiday season, you may be spending nights (or weeks!) at relatives’ homes, and going to events at friends’ houses where you need to put your child to bed in an unfamiliar environment. Do what you can to make your kiddo’s sleep space familiar and comfortable in every situation: bring along her favourite sleep sack and snuggly buddy (if age-appropriate); ensure you have a pack & play, travel crib, or portable bed (depending on your child’s age) so that your little one has an appropriate sleep surface; make the room dark and peaceful with a portable blackout blind and – if the party is really raucous! – a white noise machine to drown out loud sounds.
- Sleeping on-the-go– It’s the holidays, so we certainly can’t be at home for every nap, nor exactly on time for every bedtime. It will be unavoidable that your child will need to have the occasional car or stroller nap during your busy holiday travels. But, these should be a rarity and not the norm, if you can help it. Ensuring your child has as many proper naps as possible, and always getting your child to bed within 30 minutes of their normal bedtime, will help your little one remain well rested and content during your travels.
- Great habits die hard– It can be easy to fall out of habit with your usual great, consistent routines during the rush of the holidays. But, babies and toddlers LOVE consistency and predictability – it is always best to help them understand what is coming next. So, resist the urge to skip your child’s usual bedtime routine – don’t just pull your toddler out of the festivities and plunk them into bed! Your child will respond much better if you are consistent with your usual bedtime routine.
- Candy, chocolate, and more candy– This season is already so exciting for our kiddos… and then we go and add sugar! Of course we want our little ones to enjoy some festive treats, but I suggest limiting sugary goodies as much as possible, particularly within a couple hours of bedtime, to give your child the best change for winding down quickly and slipping into a nice, peaceful, restful sleep.
- Overscheduling– With your mailbox full of invitations to parties, open houses, pot-lucks, and gift openings, your social calendar might fill up very quickly during the holidays. Try to avoid overscheduling your calendar with family events or pressure to visit everyone who asks. If you attempt to please everyone, it could lead to missed naps and late bedtimes, which generally lead to temper tantrums and meltdowns from your otherwise content and happy child!
- The Dreaded Pressure Test: It’s 2pm, and your in-laws are impatiently waiting for your baby to wake from her nap for playtime. It’s 7pm, and your guests are just arriving and want to hang out with your preschooler. You may feel like the “bad guy” for saying “no” to those who want to mess with your child’s sleep schedules, but – remember – you are in charge. You know how important your child’s sleep is, and it’s your job to honour it. Remind your loved ones that the quality of time spent with your child is what’s most important. When people see how pleasant and social your child is when he or she is awake, they will soon realize that a well-rested child is a happier one.