Sane parenting during the silly season sounds like a tall order, but I promise that it's not as difficult as it sounds.
I agree that Christmas is possibly the toughest time of the year to hold on to our parenting sanity. So, if you are a happy parent of one (or two, or more) little ones, you might be slightly dreading all that hype and sugar overload that Christmas mayhem may bring. Here are 8 tried and tested tips to ensure that the kids AND the adults have fun and stay sane during Christmas holidays:
1. Don’t try to DO IT ALL
Do you feel like you're under pressure to do it all? Build gingerbread houses from scratch, decorate your home inside and out, watch all the Christmas movies, take the kids carol singing, dance around the sitting room, throw a toddler party, wear matching hand-knitted Christmas sweaters, turn your kitchen into a mother Earth baking station? Just choose one or two things and focus on those. Don’t try to impress your children with all of it, because at the end of the day, most of it will only be appreciated (or cursed) by other parents. Small kids are delighted with a cookie, a cardboard box and a Christmas tree twinkling in the corner.
You will save a lot of money and nerve cells by opting out.
2. Don’t try to BUY IT ALL
Set up some rules and keep it real. You could go with a '3 present per child limit' or the very practical 'something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.' Don’t try to buy all the magic of Christmas and check with yourself “Are you buying this for your son or daughter or for the little kid inside you?” Deep down we know our kids don’t need all those toys, and actually if there are too many presents on Christmas morning, it can be overstimulating and stressful. Less is more!
3. Check the wrapping and batteries
How many beautiful Christmas morning moments were spoilt because the whole family had to go looking for scissors and screwdrivers to try to undo those tightly screwed bolts and untie knots. Check on this before wrapping and giving and be sure to have tools handy (or even unscrew or untie before wrapping), this way you can save some time to just enjoy and 'be present'.
Also check if batteries are needed, how many and what type and be sure to either pre-load them or have them handy to avoid overexcited Christmas morning meltdowns.
4. Prepare a few simple activities to give you some time and space
Have a few Christmas themed colouring books, sorting games, or books handy to keep the kids out of your hair, so that you can get on with things you need to do.
5. Prepare for different scenarios.
In the run up to Christmas, turn potentially triggering situations, where you are concerned you child may react inappropriately, into role play games teaching them:
How to react and what to say (or not say) if they are disappointed with a gift they receive.
How to handle unexpected or unwanted hugs and kisses from family-friends or relatives, including how to politely decline and/or avoid physical contact if it makes them uncomfortable.
How to behave sensibly with regard to all the Christmas treats and candies on offer.
6. Keep your routine as consistent as possible
It is okay to skip a nap and go to bed later from time to time, but try to keep at least some elements of your routine going. Try to maintain consistent mealtimes, (even if a big Christmas meal is planned for later, it is always safer and better to feed your little ones with their usual food at the usual time). Also - and I know this is a tough one - try to avoid screen time overload.
7. Get outside
Going outside is the simplest and easiest way to stay sane. Being outdoors and taking physical exercise (even if it's just going for a walk), will blow the cobwebs away and is an excellent physical and mental antidote to the excesses of Christmas for both you and your child/ren.
This is probably the most important thing to remember. Christmas is, of course, magical, yet you can’t be a superhero and create it all on your own. Lower your expectations and enjoy the simple things. Be present for your kids and partner, enjoy their laughter, their silly jokes, your imperfectly overcooked homecooked meals and not-so-neatly wrapped presents.
Your kids grow up so fast, so choose to focus on connection and living in the moment, rather that stress-inducing and unobtainable perfection.