We know that life is hard for many people in the current climate.
Add in the additional financial and social pressure of Christmas (which seems to start as early as October!) and families can reach boiling point, fast.
Here are some ideas to help you have a calm Christmas. As always at Connective Family, self-care is a good starting point for each adult and each child in the household.
Have a rough plan of when each person will get their dedicated self-care time…
If you have at least planned for an hour for each parent/carer to have their self-care, then it’s more likely to happen. Remember too that children need their own protected time during the festive period, to do what rejuvenates them and allows them to stay regulated, so include them too in the plan. If you have more than one child in the household, then ensure each child is included.
Adults and children need connection…
And this doesn’t have to cost a penny, don’t feel pressured to do big, expensive things.
As a family, share ideas in advance or research the fun things you can do together or some family members can do together (maybe whilst the others get their self-care time). Perhaps it involves something messy each day like a muddy bike ride, walk or run, Christmas crafting, Christmas cooking, or even a pretend snowball competition (rolled up kitchen roll make great, harmless pretend snowballs which can be used inside safely, and which can then be used as kitchen roll when the fun ends). Snuggling down for a Christmas film or story, a Christmas kitchen disco, or a Christmas quiz… all things you can make or do together.
It’s about being together, or if you can’t be physically together for such long periods of time, it’s about allowing your presence to be felt in other ways. What about doing a Christmas quiz remotely, sending each other Christmas film recommendations or reviews, or leaving some Christmas snacks as a gesture for someone special in your family.
Some children can feel over stimulated or anxious at this time…
So, to help you could try to have a low-demand Christmas. Try opening a present each day in the lead up to Christmas to reduce anxiety about the Big Day.
You could let your child know in advance what Santa is bringing them, or encourage them to help prepare some of the food or decorations, in their own way (yes, that means the tree may look like someone has fired a decoration gun at it, or the Ginger Bread house may be wonky). Allow your child to do what helps them to stay calm on Christmas Day, even if that means the family only pops to see friends for the part of the morning, or your child not having to sit and watch others open their presents.
If your child likes routine…
Then try to stick to at least some of it during this busy time. If you think that they will struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve, don’t over-plan things for them to do in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, to prevent them from being over-tired before the special day has even begun. If seeing family and friends is not important to your child at present, then tell your family and friends that your child is celebrating Christmas in a slightly different way this year, but that you would still love to see them, and make plans to visit them whilst your child is content elsewhere.
When Christmas Day comes…
If your child is struggling, agree in advance that they can do what they need to in order to feel calm. And you can celebrate with them another day, on a second, special Christmas Day made just for them.
Another day of eating lovely food and doing some special things with the people you love is a bonus, not something for you to feel stressed or worried about.
Finally, if your wonderful plan for Christmas starts to veer off in another direction because your young person is struggling, don’t panic!
Be flexible and go with what they need (but make sure you get a little of what you need too), as you can re-start a slightly different Christmas another day when everyone is in the best possible frame of mind to enjoy it.