Christmas is a strange time of year in many ways. We are expected to be feeling happy and festive and so are our children/young people. But it’s not always that simple.
My 5-year-old daughter loves Christmas and it’s lovely watching her excitement and wonder as the big day approaches. However, in many ways she hasn’t found the day itself all that easy the past couple of years. Last year she was demanding, unsettled and downright grumpy, showing clear signs of both over tiredness and over stimulation.
I’ve since given it a lot of thought and plan to do things a little differently this year. So, with that in mind here are some tips to help Christmas be a little calmer for you and your young people, no matter their age.
Look after yourself and manage your own stress… Christmas is often a difficult and busy time of year for parents and this year it comes at the end of some truly challenging times for everyone. You can’t pour from an empty cup and young people will often pick up on and mirror the stress felt by their parents. Take some time for self-care. It might be an early night, a bath or if you’re like me, a run but make sure you do the things that help you stay calm and happy.
Focus on positives… Much like the tip above, if your young people hear you constantly complaining about how stressful Christmas is or indeed how hard this year has been then they will mirror those feelings too. Of course, we are all allowed to feel stressed or down but finding things to be grateful for will really help lift everyone’s mood.
Stick to some kind of routine… (both during the holidays and on the day itself.) This applies even if you have teenagers. Young people feel safer with routines and boundaries. There can be some flexibility of course but keeping things like mealtimes regular can make huge difference. My daughter always eats lunch around midday and on Christmas day last year the lunch wasn’t ready until nearly 3pm. Also, I couldn’t give my full attention to her and her new presents whilst trying to cook Christmas dinner. This year we have lunch at our usual time, and I will make the big Christmas dinner for when we would usually eat our evening meal. Later in the afternoon she will be more relaxed and ready to chill out with her dad while I prepare it.
Bedtime!… This is part of the tip above really but it’s significant enough to deserve its own section. It’s important for all young people but even more so if they are a little younger. Letting bedtimes slip later and later during the holidays will result in an over tired child. The thing about an over tired child that really takes the biscuit is that the more tired they get the worse they sleep! Find other ways to make the holidays feel more relaxed like longer in their PJ’s in the morning or fun breakfasts like pancakes but keep bedtimes consistent. Trust me, you will thank me if you do!
Allow them (and you) some downtime… Screen time battles are common in households today and Christmas is indeed a time to spend together as a family. However, allow some quiet time during the day where young people can do their own thing. It might be everyone wants to watch a film together and if so, great! However, older young people may want to be alone for a while or younger children might want to watch TV or play some games on a tablet. This will avoid resentment from teenagers who want to be in contact with their friends and will give everyone some rest time.
Include older young people in the planning… How do they want the day to look? What time would be a good compromise for everyone to get up? By including them, young people will feel valued and have ownership over their day. Is there a special job you can give them? Perhaps they could be in charge of videos and pictures, especially if they are always glued to their phone.
A final thought is that for older young people, Christmas can sometimes start to lose its magic and they may find they don’t enjoy it like they used to. Following some of the tips above may help but it’s also important to look out for signs that they may be struggling with their mental health. If you or your young people find it hard to cope this Christmas, please do reach out for help. I’ve included some links below.
Valued Lives – valuedlives.co.uk
Young Minds – youngminds.org.uk
Samaritans – samaritans.org
We have chosen a quiet Christmas this year, but however you choose to celebrate please remember to look after the safety of you and your family members.
As ever stay safe, stay strong and stay kind. Merry Christmas. Terrie.