1. Traveling with children can be a challenge, especially in this season of chilly weather and crowded airports. To make it easier, assemble an arts and crafts kit – crayons, paper, felt, markers, stickers, pipe cleaners, glitter-glue – in a sturdy box. Use the box to knock yourself unconscious. Or Them…
2. Children crave routine, and find listening to the same stories over and over again soothing. If you’ve grown weary of the holiday books you’ve read your kid 7,883 times, try adding “dude” to the end of every line of dialogue.
3. I am NOT a religious guy but Religious traditions are easy to lose sight of in today’s marketing frenzy. Make sure you take time to gently usher your little ones into the rituals that have special meaning for you. In our household, we’ve made a point of teaching our son all the parts in our annual holiday pageant. There’s nothing more heartwarming than watching your child place a velociraptor in the nativity scene.
4. If you love the idea of attributing all your hard work to some ruddy-faced, morbidly obese imp from an enchanted, snow-covered land, consider telling the children that their Christmas gifts were delivered by beleaguered Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
5. For many families, gift-giving is a major source of stress – the relentless commercialism, the whining demands, the financial pressure. This year, simplify your holidays and create lasting family memories by taking a cue from our ancestors. With nothing more than a few dollars’ worth of wood, glue and glitter, you can create a family’s worth of festive billyclubs, beat your neighbors into submission, and abscond with their gifts.
6. Another fun low-cost gift idea is to exchange family coupons: Mom Does Your Chores, Breakfast In Bed, Stay Up Late One Weekend Night, Take a Bath Without Complaining. And don’t forget to add the fine print – Offer Expires 1/1/14, Good With Purchase Only, Entrée Not Included, Employees and Family Members Not Eligible.
7. Grandparents, as the old saying goes, are a mixed blessing. While they can be enthusiastic purveyors of cost-free child-care, they also have a tendency to ignore or even contradict the decisions we make about how to raise our children – inappropriately doling out sweets, or purchasing gifts that undercut our values, such as tutus, assault rifles and chewing tobacco. Unresolved issues can complicate your efforts to reason with your own parents, so consider avoiding a head-on confrontation and instead relying on simple reverse psychology. If grandma and grandpa insist on going against your wishes, lie about your wishes. Encourage them to shame and ridicule the children for any activity or sartorial decision that falls outside of strict gender stereotypes; suggest that an outing to the pachinko parlor would be great fun for everyone; remind them that kids don’t really need to eat more than once a day and thrive on sugar, gluten and processed foods.
8. A holiday vacation can mean sampling all kinds of new cuisine – whether it’s Uncle Joe’s award-winning chili or the exotic flavors of Nepal. If your little ones are fussy, be sure to ease mealtime hassles by bringing along a supply of the familiar foods they’re accustomed to rejecting at home.
9. A gaggle of different-aged cousins playing together all vacation long sounds great in theory, but to avoid chaos and hurt feelings, set some ground rules first. Try shaking up the power dynamics by putting the youngest kid in charge for the whole week, and making sure the older ones know they’ll be punished severely if they don’t obey his or her every command.
10. Above all, remember: The holidays, like childhood, are supposed to be fun – and they’ll both be over before you know it! I mean that, of course, in the sense that you, personally, are likely to lapse into a lengthy coma.