Holidays 101 for New Parents

| Megan Davis LCSW

Many people dream of how they will celebrate the holidays once they have a child and how they want to carry on family traditions.  It’s fun to dream, but then reality sets in and the holidays can feel anything but cheerful. Here are some tips to keep in mind this holiday season:

Meet yourself with where you are at

What do I mean by this?  What this means is to take a few minutes and take inventory of how you are doing right now, in the present moment.  You can reflect on how you are coping with your role as a new parent and your current needs. Some questions you might ask yourself are: Am I getting enough sleep? How much energy do I have throughout the day? What feels supportive right now? How am I feeling (excited, overwhelmed, sad)? What are my child’s needs right now?  What are my needs right now? How can I get both of our needs met? The best part about this is you don’t have to have any answers yet – just taking time to identify a frame of reference can be helpful in creating realistic expectations for yourself and the holidays.

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. 

Nothing spells disaster more than one person promising to show up to holiday gatherings (with newborn in tow) without discussing it first with the other parent.  Holiday schedules can be incredibly overwhelming, especially for new parents who are navigating their little one’s routine all while running on little sleep. Have a conversation with your partner about both of your priorities this holiday season and what you both are willing to let go.  Maybe this means focusing on smaller, low-key gatherings or saying “no” to back-to-back events. Start having conversations about traditions you both want to start with your child and how this holiday season will look different from previous ones.

Be upfront with your boundaries.

Yes, everyone probably wants to meet the new baby and smother him/her in kisses, but YOU as the parent get to decide what is ok and what is not.  If you can’t make a family function due to the baby’s nap schedule, you can choose to decline or plan to come later.  If you don’t have the bandwidth to travel for the holidays, you can stay put. If you don’t want to host, you don’t have to.  If you don’t want people kissing your baby, you tell them politely that you are wanting to protect your baby from risk of illness.  Boundaries can be difficult, especially with those closest to you, so it can be helpful to discuss them ahead of gatherings.  

Give your family the gift of presence. 

Running around town trying to find a thoughtful gift for everyone on your list might have been doable before having a baby, but it may not be now.  Most people will give new parents a free-pass on gift-giving, so take advantage of this. Being fully present during interactions can be much more meaningful than any material gift.  If buying gift cards to hand out to loved ones allows you to be present with your baby and those around you, why not? Creating your own space to be present in experiencing your baby’s first holiday season is the best gift you can give yourself and others.

Practice self-compassion.

There are three components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.  Being a new parent (or parent of any aged child) can be difficult.  Talk to yourself like you would a friend. Instead of beating yourself up for not having time to clean the house or bake cookies for the neighbors, remember that you are working hard to meet the needs of your baby and (hopefully) yourself.  Keep in mind that many other new parents are in the same boat and that you are not alone!

If you find that you are struggling to cope with the stressors of being a new parent, you can also seek out professional support.  Oftentimes, seeking out support for yourself can be the greatest gift of all! 

Today's the day to make a change.