1. Be nice, play nice.
With extended family visiting and staying, it naturally follows that kids will have conflicts or even kind of not like one another as much as you hope. What to do? Remind kids about your household rules for playing nice. Use nice words, hands to yourself, that kind of stuff bears repeating when lots of little ones play together. It also helps to have an adult supervising the littles. We know our kids will meet plenty of people at school and work, so teaching them young to get along, smile and play fair has lifelong implications.
2. Stand up for yourself.
Being nice is one thing, but tolerating a bully or worse is not allowed. Teach kids not to tattle about little things, to tell other kids to stop doing something that is harmful or not nice, and to get an adult if someone keeps breaking a rule. This is especially important for daughters to understand, as they are more susceptible, in my opinion. Be sure to teach kids not to respond in kind or with any kind of violence like pushing or hitting. Kids, like adults, may need to leave the group for a short time if they cannot get along and follow rules.
3. Take turns.
Game day is bound to happen. Kids want to play with their new toys, but may need more adult intervention, even ten year olds. If kids are playing an organized game, teach them to follow the rules and avoid making up their own rules (read the instructions!). Allowing your child to put away a breakable toy or special toy so other kids don’t break or ruin it is okay, too. I don’t make my kids open new gifts and let all the cousins free-for-all with it, usually. If my child decides to open and play with a new toy, he or she gets first turn, but after that, I do make them give siblings or cousins a turn too.
4. Jealousy is ugly.
It never fails that someone else’s gift is better. My little boy cries about this sometimes. Teach kids not everyone gets the same gifts at the holidays, just like not everyone has the same skills and abilities. Life is not fair and being jealous doesn’t change that. Teach kids to be happy for others, to take joy by seeing the happiness of others. Life is not all about making ourselves feel good. If it is, that is a shallow existence and we should be teaching our kids to live deeper and better than that. With six kids at different ages and stages, it is never fair.
5. Remember that every day is not a holiday.
Vacation gets long. Cleaning has to happen at some point. Parents may need to work. Kids may need to read and clean their rooms. I am as guilty as the next parent for letting my kids do whatever they want for part of vacation, but just like I tell them we can’t eat dessert every night, every day is not a holiday. This is a great life lesson. Whether money or time is short, many days are spent doing the mundane, boring stuff we have to do rather than the fun or relaxing stuff we’d rather do.
Kids make messes. Kids argue. Kids push limits. Vacation or no vacation, holiday or no holiday, rules still exist and parents still need to enforce them. This is one of the worst parts of being a mom, for me, like, can someone else just handle that for me? But realistically, no, parents are still in charge. If you’re lucky enough to get a sitter for part of your kids’ vacation, good for you! Let the kids stay up late once or twice if you like, but vacation shouldn’t be wild and crazy day and night. Maintaining the rules will maintain your sanity!
7. Practice gratitude.
The holidays can leave kids (and adults) feeling down, even after all those gifts. Some kids might pout that they didn’t get the biggest gift on their wish list, but show them what fun they can have with what they did get. Spend the vacation engaging your kids, play with their toys, do stuff together when you can. Bring attention to what you do have, including each other, your health, your home, warm clothes and fun experiences together and with family and friends.
Spend the next week or two loving those kids. When they drive you crazy, bundle them up and send them out to build a snowman. Plan a little special time or a special event together, even if you and your spouse are working all week. Make the best of the rest of 2017!