We’re in the middle of the holiday season, which kicks off unofficially with Halloween and continues with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, then finally New Years.
All of these holidays can be fun, but can lead to stress and health risks. Keep your family safe with these tips.
Schedule time for everyone to get to bed on time. Everyone needs to sleep to feel their best!
If you’re traveling, see the National Sleep Foundation’s Travel page for travel-specific tips.
When we try to do too much, everything is rushed.
It’s okay to say no to some gatherings or parties.
Alternate which family members you see each holiday if it’s too hard to see everyone each time.
Let go of perfection
If all the tasks of getting your house ready for guests is overwhelming, go back to the basics.
What really needs to happen to have a fun time? Are special decorations really necessary or is it okay to skimp on all the hoopla? Will your guests even notice that the top of the refrigerator hasn’t been dusted?
Chances are they’ll be happy if your home is full of family and friends to catch up with and enjoy.
Follow family traditions
Change is hard for many kids (and adults). Extra days off school or getting out of the normal routine can be stressful for many.
Try to keep sleeping and eating times as close to the regular routine as possible. Tired, sick, and hungry are three things that are sure to make kids fussy. Two of the three are more easily managed if routines are kept during holidays.
Repeating family traditions can help kids find comfort in the daily routine changes that happen each holiday.
Set a budget
Money isn’t unlimited and it isn’t what brings happiness.
Determine how much you can spend for each holiday and stick to that budget.
Give gifts of time or talent rather than store bought items that will soon be forgotten.
Talk to kids in advance of travel plans and set expectations.
While it may seem fun to whisk them off on a surprise adventure, this can lead to undue anxiety in some kids. Let kids travel with at least one comfort item if needed.
If others will be coming into your home, talk to your kids about sharing their space and toys. Think about the ages of kids coming into your home and child proof as needed.
Exercise is always important.
Don’t let the busy holidays keep you from taking care of yourself.
Kids also need time to move, so don’t let them spend their days off school attached to a screen. Get them outside and active!
If you’re traveling far distances, break the trip up into smaller pieces as much as possible so kids can get their wiggles out.
Complicated recipes aren’t required.
Simply have food that tastes great and is easy to prepare – even better if it can be made in advance – just be sure that it is always stored at proper temperatures and clean hands are always used to prepare and serve food.
For food handling tips, see this USDA page.
If someone is not feeling well, especially if they have a fever, keep them home.
Ask everyone to wash hands before going through a self-serve buffet.
No one wants a fun time ruined with illness!
And don’t forget that everyone over 6 months of age should have a yearly flu vaccine!
If you’re hosting for the holiday, ask guests to bring a menu item.
If you’re going to someone’s for the day, ask what you can bring.
Get everyone involved in helping with dishes and picking up at the end of the day.
When everyone chips in, no one’s load is too much!
If you’re traveling, pay attention to weather warnings. If winter weather makes travel unsafe, don’t venture out.
If you’ll be taking a long car trip with the family, plan ahead.
- Bring healthy snacks for the road.
- Avoid messy foods in the car.
- Pack a water bottle for each family member so no one has to share.
- Plan on making frequent stops if you have young ones. Get everyone out to stretch their legs even if they don’t have to use the restroom.
- Use car seats and seat belts properly for everyone in the car. Remember to remove bulky clothing for proper seat belt fit in car seats.
- Break long drives into multiple days of driving if possible.
If you’re traveling by air, see these travel tips from HealthyChildren.
Watch the kids
It is easy with a house full of people to assume someone else is watching kids. This can lead to no one really paying attention to the little ones.
If there are young children who still need constant supervision, name the person who is in charge and expect them to follow suit when they pass the child to someone else’s responsibility.
Older children may play in areas without adults, but check in on them regularly.
If you’re visiting someone else’s home, find out what the safety risks might be.
- Are there medications within reach of kids?
- Do they have pets that could be a problem due to allergies or young children?
- Are there unlocked guns in the home?
- Does anyone have food allergies? If so, prepare.
Choose foods wisely
We celebrate many things with food, but it doesn’t have to be only junk foods. There are many yummy healthy options that can be shared at gatherings.
Encourage kids to try small bites of new foods if they’re open to it, but never force them to eat. Lead by example and put lots of healthy foods on your plate!
Yes, it’s okay to still have dessert, but pace yourself. If you’re nearly full from the healthy foods, a small portion of dessert will feel satisfying.
Adults may choose to indulge in adult beverages, but don’t overdo it. At the least you might embarrass yourself in front of friends or family. At the worst you could cause physical harm to yourself or others.
If you see someone who is not drinking, do not encourage them to have a drink. There are many reasons a person may not drink and encouraging a bad habit does not reflect well on you.
If you’re hosting, have non-alcoholic options available too.
If there are children and teens around, be sure they don’t have access to the alcohol.
Safe touch reminders
Never force kids to give hugs and kisses to anyone, not even Grandma. If they aren’t comfortable with physical affection offer a fist bump or high five.
Talk to your kids about body safety starting in the preschool years.
For all the holidays you may be celebrating this season, be safe and enjoy your family time!