It’s Christmas time, there’s every need to be afraid… Very afraid.
Younger and older kids – what might help
Try to have some ideas of what you might do in the run up to Christmas day, the dull period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and for those ‘dead days’ after New Year’s Day and school.
Include older children so they don’t feel too ‘organised’ – especially if they value their independence. Older children can help in putting on Christmas itself, but also plan some older days – shopping, cinema and they can go with their friends, Bowling etc. Tag team up with anyone else available to take a child! Remember, planning ahead means you know what they’re doing, and what you are doing.
It can be really tempting to have either a relaxed routine or no routine at all, but a bit counter intuitively, this actually tends to stress children out because they don’t know when they’re eating or sleeping. Over excited, over tired or ‘hangry’ children get stressed. Stressed kids usually mean stressed adults
Stagger present giving as the younger children tend to get overwhelmed by the excitement of it all if they get everything all at once and smaller presents can get forgotten on the day.
It is a good idea to have a quieter, cooler place away from unopened presents, TV and people to have a quieter time just to play with presents.
Christmas is the ideal time for teenagers to play up!
Try not to react when they say something provocative, usually this just for your benefit – ‘Christmas is a waste of time’, ‘What’s the point?’, ‘I am a vegetarian now’, ‘this is dry…’ etc, stay in control (ha ha, easier said than done). They are frequently trying to demonstrate their power and causing you to lose it is a good example of them flexing their emotional muscles!
Choose your battles and see the bigger picture (otherwise known as winning the war!) – decide what’s important e.g. being at the present opening, being at Christmas dinner and playing one family game. Ask them to be there, ask them like an adult (don’t order them). Also stipulate any conditions beforehand so it is not a surprise to them e.g. No phones at the table, they can have one glass of wine etc. Surprises inevitably lead to negotiations ‘on the hoof’ – a recipe for disputes.
Time off for good behaviour – In the same way younger children need some downtime, so do teenagers. Let them see their friends, disappear to their room for an afternoon, play on the games console for a few hours, have a lie in and miss breakfast etc. – and this ties in to the idea of choosing your battles, don’t sweat the smaller stuff – they won’t, plus they might feel that they should reciprocate a little. You never know….
Also, there will be at least a couple of arguments – they are children after all (and teenagers at that!). Don’t expect everything to be magically great – the extra pressure on yourself and them will virtually guarantee a confrontation. Being told ‘to chill’ will ensure the opposite from you! (I know I just did it, and it is not even Christmas!). When you lose your rag (which you probably will do), don’t feel guilty and beat yourself up. Wait a while, ask for quick word, say how stressed you are and you need their help and (hopefully!) make up and move on.
It is the classic saying of ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – organize stuff ahead of time. Even basic arrangements like ‘I will drop them at 4.00 PM at your house’, this allows everyone to have an anchor event to arrange things around.
Try and avoid most things being organized by 1 person (unsurprisingly, this is annoying!)
Arrange journeys carefully to avoid 1 person travelling a long way / doing all the fetching and carrying (and not drinking!).
Plan / stagger celebration meals / Christmas events around children arriving (but not immediately!)
Step parents: try to think how the present you have bought your partner’s children is roughly equal in cost and size to the ones that you have bought your own kids. Children tend to be even less skilled than adults at hiding their true emotions and this is an easy stress to avoid, especially if the children are tired and/or over excited.
There are, of course, loads of other issues at Christmas, but these are usually made multiple times worse by children.
Remember, this is not a guide to having the perfect Christmas, I’m merely making you more aware of the obvious issues, in case you sleep walk into them.