Sleep, Parenting & The Holidays

The parenting journey seems very unique in this day of age. There’s been no other time in life where information is readily available at your fingertips. What a blessing and a curse. Along with our own journey navigating our gut feelings with social media, internet researches, and more – you always have family and friends sharing meaningful advice. The “put Jonny to bed earlier.” “She doesn’t look tired.” “But I never get to see Susie.” There can be days where advice seems piled high and your drowning through all the recommendations, requests and guilt. Then you add holidays on top of that, with family near and far around who have the best intentions of helping, yet it can add to the stress of it all: parenting, holidays, life.

I will share sleep suggestions and deciphering between family requests and self-induced guilt around sleep for children.  Yet first, I want to make clear that my path to this confidence regarding my children has been my own journey of growth and pain.  And some days aren’t always perfect or what I’d consider a “win”.  Four and half years ago when I shared that I was embarking on the education and training as a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I can only imagine my family’s true reaction (though all were very supportive of me).  And through these 4 + years, I’ve navigated all the internal battles of sticking to schedules vs giving in to their hopes, desires, and advice about my children’s sleep.  So if this is your first family holiday with more focus on sleep, or even your twentieth, be patient with yourself.  Be kind to the situation and know in the end, it will be okay.

As I prepare for a large family gathering (like Thanksgiving in a week), I mentally prepare for situations that may arise or conversations I could have.  I practice by visualizing the situation, how I’d feel – and acknowledging those feelings, what my desires would be for sleep vs what is being asked of me, and how I’d respond. Going through this in my head allows me to shine through; I have more confidence and strength in those moments to do what I feel is best for my child and family.

Great reminders when speaking with family:

Speaking to your mother or mother-in-law with a kind, loving tone:

“This is my time and chance to give this parenting thing a go.  You had your time with (me or your spouse) and did a wonderful job!  I appreciate your advice, yet I’m excited to follow my gut and enjoy my own parenting journey…the good and bad!”

Acknowledging and validating feelings can take away 50% of the angst.  Utilize this every day and you’d be surprised how perceived conflicts actually never happen.  For example:

“I understand you want to play with Jonny.  You never get to see him and it breaks my heart too.  I also know he will be happier and able to enjoy you more if he can get his needed sleep.”

“Yes, I love it when Susie can stay up late in the night, it’s like we’re all hanging together as a large family!  I wish a child’s sleep needs were made that way!!  But I also know if I push bedtime too late, I’m in for a super long night and I could use the rest too….along with Susie.  If you want, you could get up with her as her mornings are INCREDIBLE as she’s so happy, alert and fun to be with.”

When you come from a place of love and understanding, others are easier to receive your expectations for sleep.  Be confident and show love.  Love always wins.

As for sleep suggestions:

Pick One or the Other

When possible, I try to pick one sleeping period to focus on.  Naps or bedtime.  If I predict family will want my child to stay up super late at bedtime, then that day’s nap is a non-negotiable for me.  I’ll focus on their nap, keeping it as normal as possible to ensure a later bedtime isn’t a meltdown.   Or if family is having Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of a nap time and they want all people present, that’s fine!  Naps can be shortened or even skipped, yet then bedtime is a non-negotiable.  I’ll keep an earlier bedtime knowing my child needs that rest from the lack of great naps during the day.

Multiple Days with Family

For some, holidays aren’t just a one or two day event.  Instead, we try to jam all family time into many long days.  It can be chaotic (something I secretly love) and definitely a disruption to normal routines.  Again, try to relish in these moments as they are meant with the best intentions.  How to navigate them regarding sleep, I kind of think of it as a few days on, a day or two off.  Initially meeting up with family, sleep rules kind of go out the window and we dive in with all activities.  Naps are on the go, in cars, short naps, missed naps, bedtime way too late.  We push through for a day or two with a crazy schedule and focus on being present with family.  Then we take a day or two off and try to regain some sleep normalcy for my children.  We skip events, stick to timings, etc.  I don’t believe in a balance as that’s the same as being perfect – it doesn’t exist – yet I try to harmonize sleep along with family.  Some days are off and some days I believe in standing up for my children and their sleep needs.  Do what you feel is right for you.

Any Sleep Is Better Than None

Just as it says, any short, crazy sleep period is better than none.  Take any sleep as a win!

No Bad Sleep is Unfixable

No matter how the holidays turn out, it’s not your forever.  When everyone is gone and the dishes are done (are they ever really done?!), you can return to your scheduled life and focus on great sleep again.  It may take a few days of focusing on appropriate sleep times, lengths of sleep and earlier bedtimes, yet soon your little one will be back to their old self.  Just have patience.

Take the stress away for perfect sleep during the holidays or family visits.  It will be okay.  Enjoy your family and show off you’re precious and wonderful child(ren)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Valerie Birch

Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant at Amazing Little Sleeper
Valerie Birch is a Pediatric Sleep Expert for exhausted families who have tried evvvvverything to get their child to sleep.

Through her informative and supportive blog posts and one-on-one help, she’s here to guide your child into restorative naps and peaceful nights - while making you wonder why you didn’t contact her sooner.

When she’s not consulting?You’ll find her hanging with her 2 children, getting her sweat on at the gym or baking and indulging in warm ooey-googey chocolate-chip cookies….hobbies that balance each other out!

Meet Valerie + prepare yourself for Amazing Sleep ahead…
Valerie Birch

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