by Erica L. Wilcox, MS, LPC and Tracy Morales, LCSW
Hello fellow change-agents on Yellowbrick.me! We are excited to become a part of this community and share with you some PRACTICAL and POWERFUL strategies to managing life with a new baby this holiday season. Becoming a parent already has its own challenges. Becoming a parent during the holidays can add an additional layer of stress. Family conflict, lack of sleep, others’ expectations, adjustment to your new role as a parent, communication and taking care of a newborn can pile up and leave parents feeling defeated, frustrated and even more exhausted. As psychotherapists who specialize in perinatal mental health and as mothers to young children ourselves, working with families of young children provides us with an amazing opportunity to offer professional and personal insight. Below are our top ten strategies for surviving this holiday season (in list form for those tired and weary minds reading this):
1) HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY:
If you are visiting relatives, determine prior to the visit under what circumstances you may choose to leave early if you get too overwhelmed or tired and how you will leave. It can help to identify a code word and communicate this with your partner. It is important that you feel in control.
2) LIMIT TIME:
You do not have to stay for the entire party or dinner. Communicate with relatives or friends that you will only be coming from 3-5pm, for example, or will only be coming for appetizers or dessert. When there is a clear start and end time it creates a container for stability. This is the same for visitors to your home. Don’t be afraid to communicate time limits.
3) REINVENT THE HOLIDAY:
Are you one of those people who dreads holidays? For whatever reason that you may, let this be the year that you be the creator of your happiness and create new traditions! For example, if you always spent the holidays traveling back and forth to relatives’ houses, decide that this year you will start by staying home.
4) EAT AND HYDRATE:
If you are a mother and just had a baby, remember that it takes several months for your body to fully heal. If you are a breastfeeding mother, this is especially important. If remembering to eat or drink water is difficult for you, set an alarm on your phone every few hours and have easy to eat, nutrient dense food and a big water bottle nearby.
5) REDEFINE EXPECTATIONS:
Don’t try to be a Pinterest mom who does creative crafty activities and makes homemade gifts. This is the time to allow yourself flexibility and to recalibrate and lower your expectations about how much you participate and contribute in gift giving and holiday activities. It is OK if everyone gets an Amazon gift card this year!
6) USE BABY AS AN EXCUSE:
Keep this one in your back pocket for at least the first 2 years. We are serious. Your friends that are parents will understand if you bail on something, but other relatives may not be so forgiving if you decline an invitation. “Thank you for the invite but that is right during little Sammy’s nap time so we won’t be able to make it”.
7) VALIDATE AND REDIRECT:
This is for the relatives and friends that feel inclined to tell you how to parent. You will get a ton of unsolicited advice that very well may go against your own parenting choices. Saying “Thank you for the information, we will make sure to ask her pediatrician about this at the next visit” lets the person know you hear them and also gets them off of your back.
8) ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be specific in asking for what you need (i.e., “What would really help me is if you washed this pile of laundry” or “Can you watch my baby for a few hours so I can nap?” or “What I would really love is if you could bring over a casserole for my freezer.”)
Make sure you make time to actually sit down and have a face to face conversation with your partner and/or supports about how you feel, how you are doing, what you need and to make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to handling difficult situations or family members.
10) CREATE A MINI-RETREAT:
Identify a place in your home or in another person’s home (if you are visiting for the holidays) where you can close the door and take a few grounding breaths. Bathrooms, back porches and closets work great for this. Give the baby to a trusted friend or family member and take a few minutes to take an adult time-out. It can go a long way.
We look forward to sharing more Yellowbrick parenting tips with you and wish you a wonderful, healthy and happy holiday season!
– Erica & Tracy
Erica L. Wilcox, MS, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has a hunger for health, happiness and healing and ignites change by utilizing i-Therapy ™ strategies to help transform her client’s lives. Erica graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and earned her M.A. in Professional Mental Health Counseling from Central Connecticut State University. She has over a decade of experience working as clinician, supervisor and program developer in hospital, residential, and community based settings. She has received extensive training and certification in both Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Perinatal Mental Health.
Tracy Morales, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of CT. She believes in the potential for positivity, strength, and personal growth in all individuals. She earned her Master’s Degree from Southern Connecticut State University with magna cum laude honors in 2008 and graduated from UCONN in 2005 with her BA with concentration in sociology and family studies. Tracy holds memberships with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the National Association of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Social Workers (NAPRHSW), The Postpartum Support International (PSI), and is certified in maternal mental health.