Navigating the Holidays with Your Village

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The village is a tremendous gift—here’s how it can help ensure a smooth transition into the holiday season. 

I’m all about building our village—and at this time of year, the village tends to greatly expand. The holidays are a great time of year to bring distant friends, family and everyone in between together. While you may be looking forward to connecting with Great Aunt Ruth, this could be your child’s first big family event. With that comes a lot of navigating how to introduce your child into this extended village, and how to set boundaries with your village when necessary. 

Parents must be equipped with the information they need to know to ensure a smooth transition to the merriment of the holiday season—like figuring out the best way to introduce children to relatives and family friends, asking for help when you need it, and learning how to be helpful to others. But don’t sweat it! I’ve rounded up some of my favorite tips for blending your family and your village this holiday season. 

Introducing Kids to Extended Family and Friends

Kids are blunt. While their honesty can be admirable (and often hilarious) it can also lead to some awkward moments and social faux pas. One common area where this comes up is during the holidays with names. Before attending or throwing a get-together, remind your child of who some of the people they'll be seeing again or meeting for the first time. With social media, it can also be easy to show them faces. Avoid the “Who are you? I’ve never heard of you,” moment by coming up with a go-to line they can use when making introductions, like, “Hi I’m Jimmy, what’s your name?” followed with a “Nice to meet you!”—or, “Hi I’m Suzy, I don’t believe we’ve met!” This will give them a task, a sense of maturity and help them become acquainted with their village. 

Similarly, generational and cultural differences can also mean that you may need to help develop and set healthy personal boundaries for your little ones. For example, let them know they don’t have to hug everyone. Though a hug and kiss on the cheek is a common greeting, as adults we often do it in the context of familiarity—that’s not usually the case with a child. Talk with them beforehand about what they’re comfortable with, support and respect their position, and give your guests a heads up before they arrive that a handshake or high-five will suffice. Your kids may also want to hug some, but not others. According to Dr. Deborah Gilboa, “Physical touch should never be coercive.”

“It is super confusing to send kids the mixed messages of body privacy and body safety and then force them to do something intimate with their bodies.” Help them build confidence and comfort by letting them decide for themselves. 

Asking Your Village for Holiday-Time Help

Between cooking Thanksgiving dinner to finding a sitter so you can go on those last-minute shopping trips, the holidays can be overwhelming for a parent—and that’s where your village comes in. Instead of feeling like you have to do it all, surround yourself with people who will love your family as you do. While it may feel intimidating to let love into your life, it helps your child build strong relationships outside of your family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need an extra set of hands or eyes. Your village is also there to support you emotionally during the holidays—whether it’s leaning on them after losing someone, or needing someone to help navigate difficult family situations

Being Helpful to Others in Your Village

A village is all about giving and receiving, so how you also can instill helpfulness while you’re at someone’s house this holiday season? For me as an auntie, I try to support my mom friends in so many ways and love their children—and this is a rule we can all live by! Offer to pick-up items from the grocery store or ask if you can arrive early to help clean and prepare while the family takes showers and gets ready. Take the kids to a movie or out for a play date if parents need a break, or offer to take responsibility for decor and table-setting. Anything you can do will be appreciated—but make sure to ask first so you’re not overstepping boundaries. And just like they do for you, make sure to let your friends and family know you’re there to support them emotionally through the chaotic holidays. Teamwork makes the dream work!

This year, embrace the holidays with your entire village. If you need a little me-time, don’t forget to check out my web series the Windy City Nanny where I meet with real-life families to talk about letting love in throughout the year.