6 Tips for Holiday Schedules with Extended Family

Family time, nap schedules and healthy boundaries – how to navigate these potential land mines and enjoy the holidays.

You finally have your kids on a workable nap and bedtime schedule just in time to travel for the holidays. Now you have to decide how to navigate holiday activities and loving extended family members who want to snuggle and play with your baby as much as they can. Don’t let this add another layer of stress to an already busy season.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the holidays a little more tranquil.               

Stick to a nap schedule or play with cousins?

  • Consider your personality and that of your child. If your child is extra cranky when he or she gets off schedule, or if their crankiness sends you over the edge, then it should be a no-brainer to keep to the schedule as closely as possible. But if you and your child are pretty laid back and a missed nap here or there doesn’t ruin their mojo, then enjoying a bit of extra cousin time could be a good thing. Even though it was often difficult for us to leave family functions early, we stuck to our daughter’s nap and bedtime schedule because we knew this sacrifice would be for a short season of life. Also, if we were honest with ourselves, we all just functioned better with more sleep.
  • When our daughter was an infant we tried to schedule activities shortly after she woke up in the morning or after her naps. She was at her best during those times and that provided the maximum amount of time with family and friends.
  • Don’t forget, putting the little kids down for naps or quiet time is also good so you can enjoy some time to relax and catch up with other adults.

    Setting healthy boundaries

    • If you’ve decided that it’s best for everyone that you stick to a normal nap and bedtime schedule, but you have a well intentioned grandma that’s trying to talk you into being more flexible, you may have to be a little more firm with your boundaries. New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Henry Cloud, states that boundaries are about providing structure, which is essential in building anything that thrives. Setting a schedule for your children is a boundary that benefits their well-being and allows them to function at their best.
    • As the parent, you have the right to make decisions for your family based on what you think is best.  Don’t let other opinions influence your decisions!  By setting clear boundaries, you help to better define everyone’s role in the extended family structure.
    • Dr. Cloud offers good advice when he says, “Remember, the tone with which you say something can determine whether you are heard. The persons’ brain is asking ‘are you for me or against me?’” Telling grandma that you understand her desire to be with the baby and offering to let her be the first to snuggle when the little one wakes up will tell her she’s important, but will allow you to be the one who makes the final decision.


      With any of these scenarios, try to be flexible but don’t forget the needs of your child (and yourself). Maintain healthy boundaries while remembering why you travel during the holiday season.

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      Sometimes a little extra stress or a little less sleep might be worth the memories that are made when our children interact with people who are dear to us. Enjoy the sweet holiday moments with your family and trust that you can get back on schedule once you are home.

      Annie Wiesman

      Annie Wiesman

      Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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