To kids, Christmas is the most exciting time of the year. Often too exciting. The build up is huge – Santa visits, reindeers at school, elves getting up to mischief, silly jumpers, decorations, lights, songs, plays… the list goes on... In the eyes of a child the world literally goes Christmas Crazy and the excitement can become too much.
To most adults, Christmas is busy, stressful and the amount of pressure for everyone to have fun can be totally overwhelming. There are presents to find, events to plan, food to prepare, surprises to sort, family politics to avoid and money to manage.
It’s therefore, no wonder that all hell breaks loose occasionally when the kid’s emotions start to overflow and the parent’s patience start to disappear!
Have you ever wondered the reason why kids sometimes go crazy at this time of year? Or why the only kid you often see crying at a Birthday Party is the actual Birthday boy/girl? It’s simply because their normal routine has gone out the window and their emotional cup of excitement, anticipation and expectation is completely full - any one little thing can make it overflow and up pops Demon Danny or Tantrum Tilly!
So what can we do about it? Well as a Life and Family Coach who has helped lots of parents de-stress their lives and re-balance their emotions during high-pressure times, my main piece of advice is to pace yourself.
Anticipate the overload, expect occasional hiccups (and forgive yourself for them) and build in a buffer or 2!
Planning carefully to give yourself more time and less to do can help immeasurably. But hold up, I know what you’re thinking - “Yes Jenni, but I’ve heard all of this before!” so here are my 3 Christmas Advice Stocking Fillers which you may not have!
Turn Christmas Day into a Christmas Treble – Can you spread the present giving and Christmas activities over the 3 festive days? For example, a Christmas Eve Box – suggestions could include some pj’s to wear on the big night, a board/computer game to keep them occupied while you prep for the big day and/or some beauty products or jewellery for them to wear on Christmas Day. You can then reduce the Christmas Day presents into enough to keep the wow factor but giving enough of a buffer so it doesn’t take hours for everyone to open and fully inspect their gifts making you twitchy and late for lunch! You can even then spread the festivities by doing a Boxing Day Box to keep the excitement going a little longer. Spreading the gift giving and pressure to get everything done in one single day will release some of the tension of Christmas Day itself and keep the magic alive that little bit longer, it should also free up time to do the next suggestion!
Plan an outdoor activity such as a walk or trip to the park. Staying in the house means kids bouncing off the walls, constant shouts of ‘careful’ or ‘calm down’ or the famous Christmas Meltdown when it all gets too much. Staying in means the house turning into a bombsite, things getting broken or family conflicts popping up. Fresh air seems to magically dissipate tension, splits up the day, creates special Christmassy memories and helps to relieve all the pent-up energy of over-excited children. You could even plan to get everyone else out of the house for an hour of calm to stay and prep for Christmas Lunch?
Don’t panic. OK, so you probably have heard of this one before but it’s important. If the turkey is burnt, gifts are wrong or Aunty Pam and Uncle Bob have a massive bust-up, the world won’t stop spinning. Whatever happens, it won't ruin the memory of Christmas and, in all likelihood, you’ll probably end up laughing about it in a few days. If you always keep things in perspective, take a few deep breaths and a smile on your face you’ll stand a better chance of things blowing over quicker if things do go wrong.
OK, so now the practical tips are out the way what about coping with the times when it all goes wrong?? When the kids are screaming or the boys have each other in a headlock because one of them broke the lego?
My advice - STOP, take a deep breath and – providing everyone is safe and unhurt – try to give the kids the time and the space to work through it by themselves.
Chances are, if everything has got too much and Tantrum Tilly is in full swing, she may just need the time to let it all out (one of the reasons for the time buffers I suggest above!) Telling her to ‘be quiet’ or the all too popular distraction or bribery techniques may work for a while but a good kick and scream may just be what she needs. The important thing is to be right there offering love and support through her whole ordeal and, whether sooner or later, there will more than likely be a huge hug of relief waiting for you at the end.
Finally, when it comes to sibling rivalry, the parents I know with the best success are the ones who try to leave them to work it out for themselves (with the same exception of safety I mentioned above). Like dogs left to work out their pack order, it can be tricky to watch, but kids generally get on better once they know the lay of the land and their place within it, especially when out of their normal routine. It may sound brutal – and may use up another one of your buffers – but it does seem to help.
So - to conclude - Christmas may be hard work, emotions may overflow, the day is unlikely to run to clockwork, but it’s still my most favourite time of year. Where the kids eyes sparkle the most, the house is filled with hustle, bustle, laughter and love, and where memories are made for years to come.
So plan plan plan, then sit back, snap lots of pictures, pour a glass of something strong and have a truly wonderful Christmas – and make sure you’ve built in your buffers!
Love Jenni x