Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Here's why we often see a backslide of potty training accidents during the holidays.
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Sugar cookies in the shape of snowmen, sure you can have another.
Later-than-usual evenings watching a parade of lights swing through town (with cookies and cocoa in hand.)
And about 582 things to remember to shop for, wrap up nicely, and make.
The holidays look different than the rest of the year.
You do more. You eat differently. And everyone’s running on holiday overdrive.
So how does the holiday season affect potty training?
The holidays are the high time for potty training backslides and things looking altogether screwy if you're starting potty training. Here’s why and what to keep in mind.
Let's first look into WHY this happens with potty training during the holiday season.
And then I'll share tips on how to make it through the holiday craze with your potty training toddler.
Because the holidays can also be a great time for many families to potty train..
Preschools often start in January and require your child to be potty trained.
Many parents have time off from work.
It's doable to potty train your toddler during the holidays! But here's what you want to know.
5 Reasons Why Accidents and Potty Training Backslides Pop Up During the Holidays..
1. We're all a little distracted during the holidays.
If you're in the starting stages of potty training, you have a lot of *extra stuff* to do in addition to your typical mama workload...gifts to buy, holiday parties, adventing around your town.
If your child is newly potty trained, you may mentally move on from prompting, because your child's *got it* and you have a lot of other things to be thinking about.
So you may be more likely to:
forget to prompt your child to pee
lose track of time
assume your toddler has *got it* and doesn't need a reminder for a potty break
2. We're traveling here and there and everywhere during the holidays.
In addition to the family gatherings on each holiday, there's all the other stuff that comes up in the holiday season..
Going to meet Santa
Ice skating and sledding dates
Holiday photos at the mall
Holiday craft fairs for shopping
And the list goes on.
3. We have a lot of places to be during the holidays to soak up all that holiday magic.
And it's a bigger process to *get to* all those places and outings and festive gatherings.
In many parts of the country (and definitely here in Maine!), it's FREEZING out, and it's no easy job getting your toddler in and out of their winter gear...
Let's not forget the carseat buckling, taking off the puffy jacket, then put it back on.
Then off, then on.
Does your child do his own zipper? There's another 5 minutes waiting on that do-it-myself skill. If you're in the Velcro camp with winter boots, that's another solid 5 minutes of putting them on and then taking them off.
Add it all up, and if you have more than one kiddo, you have a lengthy *process* of getting in and out the door to go anywhere during these chilly winter days.
4. We're not eating the same (hello SUGAR!)
I'm not at all a Scrooge let's-feel-guilty about partaking in holiday treats. I love it all..
Drinking up that delicious warm cider after picking that perfect balsam tree.
Eating my weight in sugar cookies.
Indulging in that chai latte because it's so darn cold in the morning. It's the holidays!
And your toddler is likely eating and drinking way more sugar than usual, too.
But you poop what you eat. And we see an uptick in poop accidents around the holidays and also hear of more toddlers running constipated (likely due to all the starchy foods we eat in the holiday season). So be mindful of what your toddler is eating so there's a balance.
Here are foods that help your child poop if you're seeing any mild toddler constipation.
Here's the thing with all those holiday sugary treats. Sugar absorbs water and affects your poop. So do all the holiday carbs. So you may see fast poops because of a change in diet. It's always a good idea to talk through what those poop sensations are in the body, how to connect with that sensation and get to the potty in time. Here's my favorite book all about poop, and here are my picks for children's books on the human body.
5. We fall into the trap of seeking perfection, which can shake our confidence.
The holidays are an easy time for any of us, even us mamas who don't subscribe to the notion of *mom guilt*, to compare how you're delivering and packaging the holidays to your children with other families.
Does everyone else have their tree trimmed and you're behind?
Did you buy tickets to the Polar Express and get the time wrong and feel like you just *ruined* Christmas?
Did your mom always make the perfect Christmas cookies and you're not feeling the drive to bake?
Did you pin handmade crafts you wanted to do with the kids, and now you can't even find time to pick up supplies?
Yep, life stays messy, imperfect, and people make mistakes. Moms can't do everything, even through the holidays.
So what do you do?
Stop potty training? Accept the accidents? Re-diaper and be merry?
Nope. First you want to re-group and get in the right headspace to team up with your child for using the potty.
6 Simple Solutions for *why-is-potty-training-not-working* during the holiday haze:
1. Don't forget to prompt your child to go pee!
This is a biggie as many mamas during the holidays are thinking of SO MANY THINGS that they simply forget to remind their child to go potty. Even if you've been rolling for awhile and accident-free, you'll often hit the *honeymoon is over* backslide if you pull back too far on prompting your kiddo to use the potty.
2. Search out the bathrooms when you're out and about.
And don't forget the travel potty (and liner). And that goes extra for all those last-minute shopping trips — point out where the bathroom is at Target, bring your travel potty, and have your toddler find the bathroom when you're at a relative's home for the holidays.
Related: This is my favorite potty book for helping to normalize public bathrooms with your toddler.
If you're shopping in little stores in your local neighborhood (yay for shopping local!), it's rare that they'll have a public restroom to use. So be sure to bring your travel potty with you in the car, under the stroller — simply stick inside a wet/dry pouch.
3. Set yourself up for success.
If you're traveling by plane or a long car ride, don't forget the golden trick of using *travel pants*.
For all the regular daily outings, team up with your toddler to make things easier.
We are in one of the coldest states (Maine!) so I like to have my kids wear cozy vests or fleece jackets underneath their puffy winter coat. That way, when we take off the jacket for the carseat, they stay warm AND it means we don't need to zipper up the coat just for the walk to the car.
Think of little ways you can make the on-and-off process with winter layers easier on you.
4. Check in with how you're feeling.
I don't know about you, but I feel more irritable and more up-and-down with moods when I'm consuming a lot of sugar. It's that sugar crash.
And it works against the levelheadedness you want in potty training.
It's easy to snowball into a sugar-fest over the holidays, and that's perfectly fine. But if you sense yourself feeling extra snappy, cranky, tired, or unable to deal with the rollercoaster of ups-and-downs with your toddler, then think about what you're feeding your body.
I find that even upping my water intake when I'm consuming extra sugary treats helps. I also find taking the extra 5 or 10 minutes to pack me and my kiddos healthy snacks for being out shopping helps BIG time.
When the hunger strikes, having a little protein snack makes for a way more pleasant shopping experience (and saves me money on an impulse Starbucks purchase.)
5. Remember what's real and what's not.
Instagram can be a huge trap with all the picture-perfect holiday happenings in pretty squares for all to see.
If you're feeling a little down or overwhelmed by the holidays, looking at your Instagram feed filled with aspirational images may not help with pushing off those feelings.
And here's a little secret.
I started out in the magazine world making those picture-perfect images you see on the newsstand. Most of us editors were sorely behind on everything Christmas related. We were not making homemade gifts tags nor weaving together our own wreaths. Nope!
Keep in mind what aspirational images are for — inspiring your inner creativity. If it's instead making you feel less-than as a mama, that's when it's time to tune out for a bit.
And why is this important with potty training?
Because seeking *perfection* is bound to make potty training unravel.
Toddlers learning how to potty train are going to make mistakes.
So we want to be sure we're in the right headspace as parents. We want to be sure we can roll with it when moments in the holidays look anything but perfect.
6. Remember YOU are the expert of your child.
Did you potty train your child much younger than your sister/mother-in-law/cousin thinks is the *right* age?
Are you staying with relatives and are worried about judging looks if there's an accident?
I've been in that boat, so I personally know how that feels. My general advice is to simply remember that you're the mom, you're the expert on your child, and you know what's best for your little one. If you bring that confidence in navigating all the tricky scenarios and dynamics with families, then you'll be in a better place to support your child through your potty training journey.
And if you're really seeing a spurt of accidents with your potty training child, that's when you want to seek out support, because something else could be at play.
Remember, perfection is boring. Make your holidays one to remember because of all the weird, wacky, and bonding moments you're bound to share with your potty training toddler.
And please pass the snowman cookies this way.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint