Whether you’re hosting a meal at your house, visiting local relatives and friends or traveling, Thanksgiving can be stressful when you have young children. From the interruption of schedules to dealing with picky eaters and everything in between, we have some tips to help you survive this holiday with your sanity intact!
The best way to prepare for Thanksgiving (or any holiday!) is to plan ahead. Know what time you need to get places, how long you’ll need to plan for travel, etc. If your little one has a specific naptime, try to accommodate by leaving earlier or later – just let your hosts know ahead of time. Most family and friends will understand!
You can also plan ahead by packing anything to make your day easier. Chances are that if you’re visiting others, you’ll be gone a good portion of the day. Pack extra clothes, extra snacks, and extra everything. If your little one will need to nap while you’re gone, take a pack-n-play so that your baby’s schedule doesn’t get too interrupted.
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your own house, try to plan how you will cook so that you have plenty of breaks to feed and entertain your little one throughout the morning.
Prep Food in Advance
We’re not talking about YOUR Thanksgiving meal, here. This is about your little ones. If you don’t have picky eaters – fantastic! You probably don’t have much to worry about. But chances are, your kids haven’t tried some traditional Thanksgiving dishes that are only served a handful of times a year.
While it’s important to encourage them to try new foods, you should also be prepared with a backup plan. It’s not fair to let your little ones go hungry just because they don’t like once-a-year dishes. Pack a meal that is easy to warm up, or plan ahead to bring a dish that your little one DOES like so she can feel included in the family meal.
If you have a baby that’s eating purees, you may be able to mash up some of the Thanksgiving dishes for her to try. Otherwise, pack some Thanksgiving-related purees to keep with the food theme of the day!
Ask for Help
As moms, we try to do it all…all by ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Ask for help ahead of time. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, have everyone volunteer to bring a dish so all of the cooking isn’t up to you. Then you can focus on the turkey and one or two other dishes.
Also, ask a friend or family member to arrive early that day and help with your little one. They can either relieve you in the kitchen so you can take a break, or entertain your little one while you stay busy preparing for the evening’s meal. And don’t forget the cleanup afterward! Ask for help with that too, so you’re not left with a huge mess.
If you’re visiting someone else’s house, ask for help keeping an eye on your toddler or baby. It’s easy to lose track of them during a big event and even easier to assume someone else is watching them. Little ones get into trouble so quickly, that it is important to have a designated person or two specifically keeping an eye on your baby or toddler.
Set Clear Boundaries in Advance
Does your little one have any food allergies? Do you limit sweets or avoid certain foods for her? If so, set those boundaries in advance. Well-meaning relatives may try to feed your little one without knowing that you have restrictions on what she can eat. As mentioned above, if your little one isn’t in your immediate care, choose someone you trust to respect your rules and protect your baby or toddler.
Similarly, if you have a specific naptime, let others know in advance that your little one may need to eat at a different time so you can maintain a napping schedule. You may get some eye rolls and sarcastic comments, but remember that this isn’t about you. It’s about your little one. She depends on you to be her advocate, and it’s OK to stand firm on your rules, standards and schedule.
Let Go of Expectations
You’ve done all this planning and preparing, but it’s equally important to be flexible. You probably have a vision in your head of how the day will go, and things don’t ever work out as perfectly as we think they will. Your little one may not nap because she’s so intrigued by everyone around her. Aunt Debra may slip her some pumpkin pie or a sip of soda when you’re not looking.
Instead of allowing these things to overwhelm you, take a deep breath and let it go. Let your little one skip her nap instead of laying in another room fussing. Gently take her from Aunt Debra, and don’t get mad that she didn’t follow your rules for your little one. For the sake of your sanity, let it go. Remember that today is just one day in the grand scheme of things, and tomorrow you’ll be back to your routine.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, reflecting on all you have to be grateful for. With a little planning and a lot of patience, you and your little one will have a wonderful holiday weekend together.