Well 2016 has all but gone, just a few weeks left to enjoy Christmas gatherings and end of the year celebrations. It all sounds like a lot of fun, but as parents ourselves, we know it is also a very testing time for both parents and children.
The weather is heating up, and the general routine of life in many homes is changed a little for some and a lot for others. Here are some tips to hopefully make your holiday season as happy and enjoyable as you have it pictured in your head right now.
From Christmas shopping to food shopping.Do as much as you can in these weeks leading up to the big day. When I was young, we lived in a street with heaps of kids and young families. All the parents would hide gifts in each other’s sheds or in the houses of older people in the street so a lot of stocking up could be done, but not be found!
Have a planner of events that is visible to you and your partner for events that you are attending or dates that you are hosting guests to see that you are having a little space when possible for the children to rest and have some down time. Even if you are planning on getting in a babysitter to stay with your children while you are out, plan a few nights home in between to keep life as normal as possible when you can. Children get easily overstimulated and overexcited with lots of social activities, so try to have lots of down time between activities, especially on really hot days.
Speak with your children and let them know ahead of time where they are going, or who is coming to stay with them so they can adjust to the regular changes occurring around them. This will help reduce tantrums or upset just as you are ready to leave home.
2. Adult Behaviour
We expect (and hope!) our children will behave well through the Christmas and New Year period. Yet rarely do we look at our own behaviour. As tired and stressed parents, it often doesn’t take much to unbalance our lives and our emotions. If we expect our children to behave well, then they need to see us as parents behaving well as role models. We need to turn and look at ourselves first, keeping ourselves in good order so our children can do the same. Try these out
- Get plenty of sleep – On nights where you can be home, have an early night or two.
- Eat well. Simple nutritious meals and lots of water to balance out the rich meals and drinks that are often consumed at parties and dinners.
- Keep up your usual exercise routine or fit in a few walks in the fresh air if you don’t have one.
- Say no – If your calendar is getting too full, don’t be afraid to say or no to events, you don’t need to go to every event that you are invited too. Too much of a good time and too little sleep is not a great recipe for calm and consistent parenting. If you and your partner have a lot of functions on, you may need to sit with your partner to work out which events you will attend as a couple and which ones one of you may need to stay home from, or choose which of you will go to the party.
- Keep Calm – Families are often a complicated subject. Being forced together to celebrate something happy doesn’t always mean it will be happy. If you know there is a possibility that you may be sensitive to family dynamics causing you or your partner stress, think of some strategies to manage the stressful situations if they arise. Making sure you and your children are as rested as possible. Stick to alcohol free drinks to keep you calm and in control of your own behaviour. Have a discussion with your partner to ask for back up support if you find yourself struggling alone.
- Neutral territory – If you know that your children clash with your friend’s children, you may opt for neutral territory so that everyone enjoys an outing and that you can leave when you feel it is time to go home. Keep the outing short to keep tempers from getting out of control.
- Having realistic expectations – As much as we would all like this fairytale Christmas period to go to plan, chances are that there will be some hurdles to this expected joyfulness. Other people are going to let us down or disappoint, we might disappoint ourselves with saying or doing something that wasn’t part of the best version of ourselves. Kids will get sick or play up at times that don’t suit us. It is called life and it just happens. Our goal is to keep our children safe and happy, and they will have more chance of that happening if we are the same, safe and happy.
3. Child Behaviour
For most children, this time if year is very exciting. There is much talk of Christmas Day, presents and a visit from Santa Claus. Shops start early with Christmas decorations and treats. Schools and day cares often having Christmas parties in November and early December. It becomes very confusing for a child to know when this Christmas thing is going to happen. Take a moment to look at your own child and work out if they understand time frames. Advent calendars or some sort of countdown system help children to work out how long away Christmas really is. The Christmas season needs to be treated as a marathon not a sprint for young children. All the excitement of a party, staying out late, missing day naps or having short naps in the car or different places regularly can take it’s toll. Let them know where they will be sleeping if it will be somewhere different than home. Remind them that you won’t be far away when they wake, or if it won’t be you, who it will be. Take your child’s usual bedtime equipment or bedtime buddies with you if sleep won’t be at home. Sleeping bags are a great cue as when your child get’s dressed into this garment, they know that they are expected to go to sleep. Offering lots of wind down time away from the party is important. If your baby has been highly stimulated they will find it harder to calm down and de-stimulate to be able to sleep. Take some extra time before your baby is expected to sleep to just go to a quiet area, read a few familiar stories to them and help them to settle as best you can.
Set a routine that is visible if you are having baby sitters come into assist you. Often carers find it easier to go along with the child’s usual routine that make it up as they go along. Having clear instructions and expectations will usually mean that your children will go to bed close to their usual time and still be predictable for them. Plan some time to make sure babysitters can find extra pyjamas and bedding in case of accidents.
Look at situations through your child’s eyes. Try to see what they see. Gauge their emotions by what is presenting to them. If your child is fearful or apprehensive with relatives or extended family whom they are not very familiar with, stay close and help them through a tough situation. Let your child know that you are going to support them.
If you are somewhere that you are not overly familiar with, keep a close eye on your children. Look out for dangers that may not be clear when you first arrive. Don’t expect the hosts will parent your children. Your child is your responsibility, be available to be a parent to them.
Rule setting is a great way to remind your child of what is expected of them. By having regular rules these will be easily applied to when your child is out, or a bit more tired or overwhelmed in a new situation. It also serves as a reminder to them if they are overstepping boundaries without you needing to yell or your child feeling humiliated in front of others. It might be that your child is getting a bit pushy with another child. Remind them of their playing rule ” Nicholas, please keep your hands and feet to yourself while you play.” You have clearly stated what it is that your child needs to do right now and also alerted other parents that you are aware of the situation. Be ready to distract or move your child on if further breaches of that rule occur. Other examples might be “Couches are for sitting on, please show me how you can sit nicely Liam.” “Miranda, we sit and eat our food at the table.” “Lucy, please use your inside voice.” As you can see from the examples you are speaking in positive terms rather than negative. This helps to keep your voice and demeanour calm and guide your child. It is much harder to lose our cool as a parent or start an argument / humiliate a child.
Delight in the simple things that you can do with your children. Enjoy your new baby’s first Christmas as they gurgle with joy looking at all the Christmas tree decorations while laying under the tree. Reading Christmas stories to your toddler or all curling up together to watch a special Christmas movie as a treat. One day your children will be older and the magic of Christmas will be far away. On the really tough days, follow the advice that an old and wise woman once gave me. “Love and feed them.” So if you are having a tough day or feeling like a pretty crap parent, just bring it back to basics and remind yourself if you have loved and fed your children, you have done a good job for the day. It is pretty easy to get caught up in the materialistic side of celebrations and look past the beauty of the simple things in life. Being grateful for a roof over your head, food on the table and good health is what much of the world would be happy with.
We hope you enjoy your holiday season and that you will be creating lots of precious memories with your family. Thank you all for your wonderful support, allowing us into your lives and to walk along side you in your most precious of roles, being the best parent to your child.
Merry Christmas and wishing you all an wonderful 2017
Caroline and Caroline