Christmas. Beautifully decorated tree, enticing presents, smiling happy faces and delicious food…
Or, partially decorated tree because the dog/ toddler/ cat has pulled half the decorations off, presents wrapped hurriedly at midnight, grumpy faces as everyone’s short on sleep, and frantic scenes in the kitchen when trying to create lunch?
Christmas can be a funny mixture of the magical and stressful, and parents, particularly of children in the pre-school/primary years are usually the most exhausted. And that’s in a normal year. This year, which has been anything but normal, parents have the added pressure of staying at home most of the time, without any of the usual entertainments, or seeing family and friends, which can really help to take the pressure off.
So if you’re at home with the kids most of the time during the Christmas holidays, as most of us are, how do you give yourself the best chance of enjoying it?
- Look after yourself!
This is so important, and it took me years to realise how important it was! It’s so easy to neglect yourself when you’re looking after everybody else, but if you don’t take care of yourself, it just means you get really run down. If looking after yourself means that you don’t get something non-essential done, so be it. It really doesn’t matter if the house doesn’t look perfect all the time, what does matter is that you can recharge your batteries over the Christmas break, and enjoy some family time.
- Charge up their attention battery.
It’s so easy to ignore your children when they’re playing happily, and only give them attention when they’re being annoying. But you’ll have a much better holiday if you give them some focussed attention before the bad behaviour starts. Once they’ve had a great time with you, they will usually play happily on their own for a while while you do whatever you need to do. Then, they will associate playing happily with getting attention from you, and be much more likely to do it in the future.
- Have a bank of home activities
Usually we’ve got some trips planned to different places/people but now we don’t have that luxury, apart from possibly meeting for a walk. So, it’s really helpful to be able to do some different activities, and we’ve been sharing ideas in my parenting group. Cooking together, Playdo, board games, treasure hunts, making Christmas ornaments out of salt dough are all things that don’t cost anything and can be done on the spur of the moment to keep everyone happy.
- Fresh air!
Come rain or shine (often rain!) this is a lifesaver for so many parents. Whether you’ve got a garden, go to the park, or out on a walk, getting outside to play and exercise makes such a difference. Football, catching games, kite flying, jumping in puddles, even in the rain there are great things to do. Walks can be made more exciting for little ones if they’ve got to spot certain things – a red car, a bird, a red leaf and so on. Games of It, finding trees to climb on, and snacks/ drinks half way around also help keep them going. When they’ve had some fresh air and exercise, at least once a day, if not twice, they’ll be more likely to play happily at home, giving you a much needed break. And for us, as parents, getting outside is really good for our mental health as well.
- Don’t multitask
This is another lesson it’s taken me ages to learn! I used to feel stressed if I was trying to play a game with the children whilst doing several other things as well, like cook food, keep an eye on messages on my phone or wrap presents. This meant that they got cross with me for not concentrating and I felt constantly stressed because I never really achieved anything. Now, I just do one thing at once, focus on it, and I’m more likely to enjoy it or get it done quickly if it’s something really boring. I get more done, and the stress melts away. And if I really don’t have time to do everything, then I just do the essentials.
Have a relaxing Christmas break, and take care of yourself as well as everyone else.
Lucy is a parenting coach, helping parents feel calm and confident when they’re with their children, so that they can enjoy their family time and help their children thrive. Before becoming a coach she was a primary teacher for many years and has three boys (including twins). She has a parenting group on Facebook https://bit.ly/calmandcompassionateparenting, can be found on Instagram https://bit.ly/3755Z0e and has a free PDF: How to Avoid the Tantrum Battles which can be downloaded here: https://lucychaplincoaching.co.uk