The holiday season is such a special time, filled with cozy gatherings and yummy treats. But if you’re a parent with young kids, it can also be a bit overwhelming. That’s why setting boundaries with parents, in-laws, and other extended family is key to making sure everyone has a happy holiday. Here are some practical tips on how to handle invitations to sixteen different family gatherings, too many gifts, and all those tempting sweets they love to feed your children.

Saying “No Thanks” to Big Invites

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The first overwhelming part of the holiday season is all those invites. If you’re getting one every weekend from Halloween to New Year’s and it’s feeling overwhelming, it’s okay to turn down some. Here’s how you can do it without stepping on anyone’s toes:

  • Keep it real: Be honest with your family about what you can handle. Let them know you appreciate the invite but want to make sure you have some downtime too. They’ll understand.
  • Smaller is better: If big gatherings feel like too much, suggest smaller hangouts or even virtual chats. That way, you can keep things cozy and manageable for your crew.
  • Set the stage: If you do decide to go to an event, let your family know in advance what your game plan is. Give them a heads-up about when you’ll be leaving and any special needs your kids might have.
  • Have priorities: If you have a schedule that your children thrive on, ask your hosts to accommodate. Let them know you can not start dinner at 6 when bedtime is usually 6:30.

Gifts – Prioritizing quality over quantity

The biggest part of Christmas is, of course, the gifts. It’s wonderful that everyone wants to spoil your little ones and give them presents, but how do you make sure it’s in a way that works for your family?

  • Speak up early: Reach out to your family before the festivities start and they have a pile with your child’s name already growing in the closet. Let them know your gift preferences. Encourage them to think about gifts that will really be loved and used by your child and not just what’s popular on the shelf.
  • Offer some ideas: You can even give them a list of specific items your child would love, or suggest experiences, educational stuff, or contributions to a savings fund. These aren’t as “fun” to open on Christmas day, but it’s okay to teach your child that Christmas is about more than stuff.
  • Make memories, not just piles of stuff: Encourage your family to do activities with your child instead of just giving them more things. Shared experiences create awesome memories and bring you all closer.

Sweet Treats, Yes, but in Moderation

The sweets situation can be a sticky one. Treats are a big part of the holidays, but it’s all about balance. Here’s how to keep it in check:

  • Share your child’s food preferences: Make sure your family knows about any dietary needs or allergies your little one has. Ask them to keep these in mind when offering treats.
  • Pack some alternatives: Bring along some healthier snacks and treats that your child will eat at the gatherings. That way, you can make sure your kiddo has options they love without going overboard on the sugar.
  • Set the limits: Politely let your family know how much sweet stuff you’re comfortable with your child having. They’ll appreciate the heads-up, and you’ll keep everyone on the same page.
  • Have a timeline: Let the family know that you want to prioritize healthy sleep, even on the holidays, and give them a cut-off time for sweets. No sweet an hour before bed is more than reasonable.

Setting boundaries with extended family during the holidays is all about making sure everyone is on the same page and understands that the parents are the ones responsible for their own kids. You want everyone to enjoy the festivities but not at the expense of your mental health or your kid’s schedules. By keeping the communication open, suggesting fun alternatives, and being clear about your expectations, you’ll sail through the season with smiles all around.

Remember, taking care of your family’s well-being is what makes the holidays truly special.

Cheers to a happy and memorable holiday season!

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