How to survive the holidays with a toddler

It’s that time of the year again and hopefully everyone is able to have a well-deserved break over the holiday period. Unfortunately, when you have small children, a holiday is not what it used to be! Although you may be away you still have to manage that little person 24/7 and often going away from home can cause a few disturbances to your child’s sleep. This is usually okay and somewhat expected when you are away from home but when you get back, and life gets back to normal, if these disturbances continue, then you won’t be happy!

Sleep disturbances when away can happen for a number of reasons:

  • sharing a room with your child while you are away, something you don’t do at home;
  • sharing a house with other people and because you are concerned about noise, you are staying with your child longer than you normally would at bedtime;
  • your child might be going to bed later than they normally do because you are out and about more in the afternoons;
  • your child might not be getting their normal amount of day sleep because of other activities happening during the day.

It is obviously ideal if the holiday is as relaxing as it can be everyone and so it is understandable if things like routine, sleep a bit while you are away. However, there is nothing worse than coming home more stressed than when you left! So, with that in mind here are my 4 top tips to try and minimise the disruption to your toddler’s sleep while you are away and when you get home.

  1. As hard as it might be, try to keep to your routine as much as you can.

When I say routine, I really mean naptimes and bedtime. Children can get extra tired on holidays. All those outdoor activities like swimming, walking, play grounds, etc., even the change in temperature can affect how tired they get, so really try to get your child into bed around the same time you would at home (obviously taking into account time differences). And remember they might be overtired so even getting them down a little earlier could help (not to mention how that helps your levels of relaxation too!)

  1. Don’t introduce anything new into the routine.

By this I mean, if your child starts to wake overnight, when they weren’t previously, or they start to take a bit longer to go off to sleep in the evening, don’t start doing something that you weren’t doing before. And by this I meant things like sitting with them till they fall asleep or getting them into your bed if they wake overnight, feeding them if they wake in the night, or rocking them to sleep in your arms. The problem with doing this on holiday is that they will expect it to continue when you get home. Instead just settle your child as you have always done. If you need to provide a bit more comfort, do that, but again, try to allow your child to fall asleep on their own, if that is what they usually do.

  1. Once home, get back into your routine as quickly as you can.

If you have had to do things a bit differently while you are away, which is totally understandable, once you are home, get back into your usual routine quickly. If you continue doing things as you did on holiday, everything can go a bit pear-shaped. Toddlers’ sleep can go off the rails pretty quickly as they latch onto new routines in just a few days. Try to remember that if your toddler was sleeping well before you went away, they should still be able to do it when you get back. Gently re-establish the bedtime routine and things should get back on track in no time.

  1. Enjoy yourself!

Don’t stress too much. Holiday don’t come easily or that often so if you have to let things slip a little, so be it. Enjoy the time away with your family and try to get things back on track when you get home. No problem or regression is too big to be fixed!

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.