As a pediatrician, my priorities are unique in that they include not only the health of the child but also the health of the parent in a way. You can’t take the best care of your child unless you’re taking care of yourself as well.
The holidays bring joy and cheer but also tons of stressors!
This week’s blog post discusses holiday safety for children during this time of the year, but goes a step further to focus on how a parent can create a “safe space” for themselves.
The holidays are a fun time filled with food, laughter, and family. However, out of the ordinary routine, parents and caregivers must remember to stay vigilant about potential hazards for their children. But did you know during the holidays, the pediatric ER can see an uptake in injuries related to holiday themed items?
Think about all the potential hazards between the wires, lights, glass ornaments, hot stovetops and ovens, the list goes on!
For example, think of those holiday lights that your parents have had for years...Maybe they have become old and have frayed wires which is super unsafe for children. It’s also common to use extension cords for holiday lights. Make sure that your extension cords are not old or frayed either. Always check smoke detectors that they are working and in regards to other fire hazards, be wary of candles. Try to keep candles away from curtains and always keep them away and out of arms reach of young children. If you have a Christmas tree that is a live tree make sure to keep it watered as dry trees can be a huge fire risk. If you have an artificial tree, make sure that it is fire resistant.
Regarding ornaments, always check your ornaments to make sure there are no broken pieces as they can be safety risks and be wary of small items like tensile which could be a choking hazard. One last note on food safety- many families have the oven running, the stovetops burning, and perhaps a grill, instapot, fryer or slow cooker working simultaneously. Always make sure you are aware of what cooking appliance is being used and keep your children out of harm's way or out of the kitchen if they are very young. This is especially important if traveling to other homes – don’t assume that the home is childproofed as well as your own home. I’m not just referring to stairs or open flames, but also stoves and other hot or boiling liquids which could be within a young child’s reach.
Another important risk I always review with families is medication. During the holidays, grandparents and extended family may be visiting, and we must think about keeping medication out of a child’s reach. Make sure you keep your medications locked up and ask them to also keep their medications in a safe place.
Tons of information, I know. (Like you didn’t already have so much already on your mind during the holidays!) Let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about a mother’s SELF-CARE during the holiday season.
For most moms, self-care does not even cross our minds. The holidays are definitely fun, but can also be very stressful! Stress has a very negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to.
Some stress is very normal and can be a good thing. It’s normal to stress a little before an exam or before a big event. Some people enjoy the stress of cooking for the holidays or entertaining-it can provide a thrill for them (not me!) Being stressed is not always harmful nor is stress alone the enemy. It’s the constant, never ending stress in our lives that becomes “toxic” to our happiness and is harmful. Prolonged stress negatively affects our emotions, mood, and behavior. It can worsen heart disease, affect our mental health, even a reproductive health! Stress can do different things to different people and in the U.S., our stress levels are higher than ever so let’s learn to take care of ourselves early!
I think some people may be overwhelmed at the thought of “self-care.” Maybe they don’t have time or the budget. Self-care does not need to be a day at the spa or the luxury of sleeping in. It might be for some but for me, a sauna gives me a headache and makes me feel claustrophobic! Sleeping in just gives me a weird feeling for the rest of the day! I think what’s most important is finding what makes you happy and feel really good not just on the outside but also on the inside and nourishing that. Just recently, I launched a campaign on Instagram called #5thingsIloveaboutme which focuses on this very principle. Self-care and self-love doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as focuses on the things you love and cultivating a time and place for that in your life despite all the other things we have going on.
If you’re like me and come from a big family, you may have tons of relatives visiting. You might be afraid of facing everyone’s differing opinions and open judgements. If you’re someone who is strongly affected by this, I think it’s wise to coach yourself beforehand and know that not everyone’s opinion matters. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” by Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my favorite quotes. Make sure you surround yourself with people who make you feel like your best self. Try to avoid criticism, if possible, as it can put a damper on self esteem.
You’ll also want to make sure that throughout parties, hosting, and late night events, you are still keeping some good sleep hygiene and not overdoing on caffeine or sugar as those can also make you feel not at your best. Try to maintain some form of physical exercise to keep your heart rate up and work off stress. If you are overwhelmed as a hostess, please make sure to ask or pre plan to have help around the house!
My form of self-care will not look like yours or another person’s-that’s the beauty of it. For every mom, it can be different. You have to think about what suits you. Taking preventive steps to ensure everyone’s safety and giving yourself lots of love will make this season a more enjoyable experience. I wish everyone a healthy and happy holidays!