Holiday stress: 5 tips to have a calm Christmas

Don't let stress ruin your Christmas this year.

Don't let stress ruin your Christmas this year. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Are you counting down to Christmas with excitement, stress, or maybe a bit of both? The holiday season can be as stressful as it is exciting, especially when it comes to keeping the children entertained, buying presents and preparing and hosting the big family festive meal.

But don’t panic! Here are some top tips to make December that little bit less stressful, so you can spend as much time as possible enjoying the season with your loved ones.

Here are my five tips to help you have a calm Christmas:

1. Get the children involved in the planning and preparation

Involve the children and plan some festive fun, a little of what everyone wants to do and don’t forget to plan in plenty of downtime also. It’s really important not to overschedule. It’s so exciting that we can go out and do everything again, but it can also be overwhelming – especially when we plan in too much.

Ensure that your children feel like they’re an integral part of all the events that are taking place, rather than feeling like they are getting in the way. Give them responsibilities and have them do some of the planning and the work involved in getting everything ready.

They can create and draw a menu for Christmas dinner, make the table and design some centre pieces. Give them their own “jobs” when it comes to tidying the house and marvel in the mundane together.

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2. Know your budget and think outside the box

Look at your finances in advance and work within your means. Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive.

There are lots of free or cheap activities to enjoy some festive family fun and after a year of missing out, why not buy experiences this year rather than toys? You could buy a voucher or subscription for a local soft play area, museum, pottery craft and create shop, rock climbing centre, zoo… The list is endless.

You could subscribe to a class or magazine for something the children have always wanted to do, or something that you could enjoy together. Think outside the box this year and find a thoughtful gift that keeps on giving. Remember to shop small and please keep supporting your local businesses.

3. Keep to normal routines as much as possible during the holidays

Try to keep to normal routines as much as possible. Whilst it’s lovely to have some late nights and lay-ins, children actually thrive off routine. It’s also important to remember that during the Christmas holidays, it’s very easy for our children to become over-stimulated and emotionally overwhelmed.

They’re easily tired from all the activities, they’re probably coming off a sugar rush after eating too many sweets and have now decided that they’ve spent more than enough time with their siblings. They will be in desperate need of some quiet, calm and a good night’s sleep.

4. Manage your expectations

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of year” and with this comes an unrealistic idealisation that we try to create, wanting everything to be perfect. As a result, we can feel stressed and anxious.

To add to that, our children will ultimately be children and there will be tears and tantrums, usually at the most inconvenient times – often in front of judgmental relatives. We can soon start to feel like we’re somehow failing as parents, everything is ruined and wondering why we even bother!

It might help to establish some clear boundaries and expectations around screen time, bedtime, routine, helping round the house and expected behaviours when out and about in advance.

Write them down so everyone can see and agree about what needs doing - and when. If you have a mutually agreed plan in place it is easier to stick to. It also helps if (when) things go awry, as you can refer to the agreement, and children can hold you to account too!

Be realistic with the expectations that you have with others and be realistic with the expectation that you set upon yourself too.

5. Communicate your Christmas wishes

Last Christmas was different for most of us, so why not take the opportunity to challenge some of your traditions and try some new ones? Ask everyone to share what they value at Christmas and what new traditions they would like to introduce. Provide lots of opportunities for everybody to share their thoughts, feelings, wants, needs and wishes and feel heard.

When we make our feelings our priority, everything else slots into place. Your children will pick up on your emotions, no matter how hard you try to hide them.

Equally, our children have been through so much as well. We can plan an amazing day out and they may become overwhelmed and not enjoy it.

Feelings just are. We cannot control them or fix them, they just need to be felt, accepted and truly listened to before they can be released. Make sure that children feel emotionally safe, and you are emotionally available.

Set realistic expectations for you both. Encourage your children to talk about their thoughts and feelings, listen, and be empathic. Reassure them that we all have this ‘Rainbow of Feelings” inside of us, and every feeling is OK.

If your child is struggling with their BIG feelings please visit www.sunnykidsshine.com or email Jodie at info@sunnykidsshine.com to book a FREE initial consultation.

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