MOM AND SONWhile friends and family may say “Bah, humbug” if you turn down an invitation to dinner in favor of your child getting to bed on time, at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

Unfortunately for your social life, that often means putting your kids’ needs first.

As you approach this holiday season, keep these 5 tips for staying on schedule in mind. If you do, you’ll minimize the meltdowns and maximize the fun you have together.

1. Work around sleep times.

It’s no secret that well rested children have less behavioral issues.  Taking an overtired child to a holiday party is a recipe for disaster. When possible, tweak your social schedule around your child’s sleep schedule. If you know you have a party that starts an hour into your child’s scheduled nap, consider leaving early and driving around so that your child can nap in the car. If you plan on staying out past your child’s bedtime, pack along his pajamas and a favorite blanket. If you’re lucky, he may sleep where you’re at and you can transfer him into the car then into his bed. If not, you’ll be ready to make a speedy exit and won’t have to deal with waking him up to change him once you’re home.

2. Pack food with you.

During holiday parties and get-togethers, you can’t count on the food coming out on time or your child liking the food that is served. Everyone makes mac-n-cheese differently and if your child is used to eating it with cheddar and someone makes it fancy with swiss cheese and broccoli mixed in, you may be in for trouble. Packing foods that you know your child will eat eliminates your dependence on others and allows you to stay in control of what and when he eats.

3. Be the host.

With kids, it’s often easier for people to come to you, rather than you going to them. Consider offering up your place for the family holiday party. While it may be more work upfront, you’re likely to have a more manageable time since your child will have everything she needs at hand. If she’s tired, you can put her to bed. If she’s hungry, you can feed her.

4. Eat in advance.

If you know your child has had a decent, nutritious meal before heading out, it won’t be as devastating to her diet if she snacks too much or eats things you normally wouldn’t feed her. It will also help to minimize the chances of her blood sugar dropping to the point that she has meltdown after major meltdown.  If she’s full, she’ll be eating out of curiosity rather than hunger and it will be easier to get back on schedule once the event is over.

5. Hire a sitter.

If there’s an event you really want to attend or stay at until the end, consider having a trusted sitter meet you at the event around your child’s bedtime to take him home to bed. If it’s a sitter he’s familiar with and likes, he’ll likely embrace the idea of doing something so special with her. Often times when children are tired, they are eager to go to sleep and will gladly do so if removed from the stimuli and given the opportunity to.

While your social life doesn’t have to revolve around your children, tweaking it around your children’s schedule can maximize the fun and minimize the meltdowns.