No one wants to spend the holidays in a crabby mood – or in an emergency room. Pediatricians have you covered with some helpful advice.
Holidays entice the senses with colorful festivities, aromatic meals and family togetherness, but they can also evoke sadness, anxiety or agitation when there is just a little too much of a good thing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips this season to help parents preserve the magic and beauty of winter holidays while keeping children safe and healthy.
"With a thoughtful approach, families can avoid some of the holiday frenzy, and focus on what is meaningful to them," said Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. "We know that children take their cues from their parents. By taking a step back and slowing down, parents can model better ways to cope with excitement and stress and enjoy some quality time together."
AAP offers 12 top health and safety tips for families to consider:
- Stick to your child's usual sleep and mealtime schedules when you can. It's not always possible when you are juggling the demands of shopping, cooking and travel, but maintaining household routines will help ward off tantrums and maintain holiday cheer.
- Take care of yourself, mentally and physically. Children sense the emotional wellbeing of their parents and caregivers, and if you cope with stress successfully, your children will learn how to do the same.
- Don't feel pressured to overspend on gifts. Consider helping your child make one or two gifts. The chances are these will be the gifts most treasured by a parent, grandparent or special adult.
- Participate in a volunteer activity and include your child, whether it's helping serve a holiday meal at a local food bank or shelter or writing letters to members of the armed forces who can't be home for the holidays.
- Toys don't need to be expensive or electronic to make great gifts, but they should be suited to the child's age, abilities, skills and interest level. Be cautious about toys that contain button batteries or magnets, which can be swallowed by small children and cause serious internal damage. For more help with toy safety, go here.
- Speaking of toys, if you are considering a digital device for a child or a teen, such as a tablet, smartphone or game system, think about the purpose of the device and the rules you want to set around its use. AAP offers a family media planning tool here.
- Cooking with children can be a great way to bond over a family recipe and offer a sense of accomplishment to budding chefs. Be sure to follow food safety guidelines, wash hands frequently and keep hot foods and liquids away from the counter's edge. More kitchen safety tips are here.
- When decorating, watch for fire hazards. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled "Fire Resistant," and if it's live, make sure it's fresh and not losing too many needles. Keep it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.
- Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling pieces. Find more tips on decorating safely here.
- When visiting friends or family, remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways, or hot radiators. When visiting others or hosting guests, make sure that any medications are stored safely away from curious kids. Pay special attention to narcotics and other prescription medications.
- After a holiday party, clean up immediately. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come into contact with alcohol, tobacco or vaping products.
- Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are- time to enjoy your family. Find ways to spend time together, whether it's on a sled outdoors or over a board game or good picture book.
HealthyChildren.org, the AAP website for parents, offers tips on traveling with an infant during the holidays here.
For an interview with pediatrician and spokesperson, contact AAP Public Affairs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.