Should I potty train at Christmas?

With most people having at least some time off work, Christmas may seem like the perfect time to get on with potty training, but  here are 5 things to consider before making your decision.

Potty training is a major developmental milestone of childhood and if you’re thinking of supporting your child, you will understand that they need your help. Whenever you decide its the right time to potty train (if you’re not sure – try this quiz), you will need to teach your child all the steps involved, from communicating to you that they need to go, to getting them to the right place, supporting them to undress, use the potty or toilet, dress and wash hands. With so many skills involved in potty training, you can be sure most children will need some help to perfect them.

At Christmas, you are likely to be at home and have a few days to spare. I always recommend setting aside at least 2-3 days at the beginning of the process to give your child what they need and honour them. So it might seem like a good idea to do this during your holiday. The answer is, if you have already started potty training and its going quite well, then the holiday is a great time to hone in on any remaining skills that need perfecting. These might include things like dressing and undressing, sitting independently, wiping or washing hands. If you have done baby potttying (elimination communication) before, you might be further on with the process of learning anyway, therefore you could think about consolidating things. However, if your child has never used a potty before and you are thinking about potty training from scratch, there are some reasons why the Christmas holiday might not the best time to start potty training:

  1. There will be lots of distractions, both for you and your child. Distractions will get in the way of you being available to focus on the task, but they will also make learning harder for your child. Christmas is not always the quiet time we imagine;  it’s usually exciting and stimulating for children and a very busy time for parents.
  2. You are more likely to get resistance from your child. Research shows that most parents initiate potty training rather than the child. When parents take the lead in the right way, this approach is also shown to be the most effective way to potty train. However, at Christmas, potty training is likely to be a low priority for your child compared to the wonder and excitement of the festive season. Trying to change their whole way of life (aka where they wee and poo), is likely to create resistance to the process which won’t help your chances of success.
  3. Your child will probably have accidents to begin with. Accidents are part of the way we learn, but if you’re too busy to give the process the time needed, you will miss important learning opportunities. Accidents can also be frustrating and even the most patient and gentle parent can feel stressed and overwhelmed during the holidays. Your response to accidents is an important part of learning too – how well will you manage?
  4. You might have guests coming.  The last thing your child needs at the beginning of potty training is to feel that they have to get things right straight away. Having guests in the house can really up the pressure to be successful, which can impact negatively on your child.  Alternatively, if your child does succeed and everyone makes a big deal out of it with loads of praise etc., it can have the same negative impact later down the line. Potty training success should be celebrated, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Finally, your guests may have conflicting views to yours or a different parenting style. Support is wonderful but interference can be hard to handle. If you are at risk of a well-meaning relative “helpfully” suggesting that Santa is watching for good little children who do their wees in the potty and won’t be bringing presents if they don’t… maybe it’s not the best time of year to start!
  5. You might have arranged trips out and you might not be ready to go out without nappies yet. Putting your child back into nappies (and this includes pull-ups) for a trip to the theatre or a long car journey sends the wrong message and is not recommended once you have started potty training.

The good news is that if you really do need to potty train at Christmas, there are things you can do to gently start this process.  These including making good preparations for the process, setting the scene and working with your child to raise awareness of their body and its processes.

For help with this, try our Potty Training eLearning or book a private consultation with me. I’m a registered children’s nurse and potty learning coach. If your child is younger than 18 months, did you know that you can start baby pottying as early as BIRTH? Check out my evidence based guide to help get you started.

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